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Full text of "The red band : (La bande rouge) : or, The seige and the commune"

\ y FORTUNE DU BOISGOB 



THE 



i 



1 










d R. MAXWELL 



THE RED BAND. 



THE 

EED BAND 

(LA BANDE ROUGE) 

OK 

%\}t %iz%t ant* tljs Qtnmmune 



FORTUNE DU BOISGOBEY 

Attthok. of "The Condemned Door" "The Blue Veil" 
The Cky of Blood" The Opera-House Crime" etc., etc. 

Author 1 a Copyriyht Edition. 




LONDON : 

JOHN and ROBERT MAXWELL 

MILTON HOUSE, ST. BRIDE STREET, LUDGATE CIRCUS, 

AND 

SHOE LANE, FLEET STREET. 

[All rights reserved.] 



THE RED BAND. 



OHAPTEE I. 

The night was cold and dark. 

The giant trees in the forest of Saint Germain, shaken 
by the autumnal gale, groaned dismally as their tall tops 
bent and swayed over a narrow and lonely road. 

Occasionally a still stronger gust of wind drove away the 
clouds, and the moonlight gleamed through the leaves, and 
then one caught sight of a peculiarly shaped vehicle mak- 
ing its way laboriously along the rough road. 

It was not a carriage, nor was it a wagon. It looked 
like a long box, surmounted in front by a chimney, and 
with long narrow openings in the sides. 

It seemed to be a house on wheels, and it was certainly 
inhabited, for from the openings came flashes of light that 
illuminated the shrubbery on either side of the road as it 
passed. 

The rough and stony ravine through which this strange 
vehicle was slowly wending its Way made a sharp turn after 
passing a clump of oaks, and then came a steep hill. 

At the foot of this hill there was a moment's halt, fol- 
lowed by a wild plunging of horse's hoofs, then the odd 
vehicle, which had doubtless encountered some unforeseen 
obstacle, suddenly keeled over on one side like a vessel 
struck by a flaw of wind, and remained propped against an 
enormous stump which seemed to have been placed there 
expressly to prevent it from capsizing completely. 



8 THE RED BAND. 

" Mille tonnerres /" yelled a voice from the interior of 
the conveyance, " the fool has certainly upset us." 

A doleful groan from the front of the vehicle followed 
this exclamation, but nothing moved. 

The driver seemed to have no intention of getting his 
fallen steed upon its feet again, and the unfortunate animal 
appeared comparatively resigned to its fate, for it contented 
itself with neighing loudly without making any futile efforts 
to rise. 

" Alcindor!" yelled the same harsh voice. " Don't you 
hear me, good-for-nothing?" 

At the same instant the door at the back of the vehicle 
was thrown open and a man leaped to the ground and ran 
to the scene of the catastrophe. 

In his left hand was a lantern, which he thrust in the 
driver's face, and in his right a long cane, with which he 
began to strike him smartly on the legs. 

The effect of this attack was instantaneous. 

The driver drew back at first, dazzled by the light, but 
as soon as he felt the blows he dropped the reins and 
jumped down on the other side of the vehicle. 

He did not seem particularly surprised or alarmed, how- 
ever, for he seated himself on the side of the ditch and put 
his hands in his pockets like a man accustomed to such cor- 
rection. 

He was a thin, cadaverous-looking fellow, whose ex- 
tremely short body rested upon a pair of interminable legs. 
He had long hair of a pale yellow tint, a chalk-like, beard- 
less face, a small, pointed nose, and bulging gray eyes. 

His habitual expression of countenance was one of 
resignation, mingled with a sort of repressed enthusiasm. 
A shrewd physiognomist would have detected under this 
mask a visionary who concealed his dreams, or an inventor 
who was ashamed of his inventions. 

As for his costume, it was simple but grotesque. A pair 
of faded trousers covered the long and attenuated limbs 



THE RED BAND. 9 

which terminated in immense feet, incased in shoes of the 
coarsest leather. Over his bony shoulders floated a large 
cape, and his head was covered with a shabby cap. 

This strange being was evidently young in spite of his 
antiquated garb; and his master, the man who had just 
leaped from the vehicle, was a striking contrast to him in 
every respect. 

Tall, square-shouldered and powerfully built, he was the 
very type of the athlete one sees at country fairs. His 
powerful biceps and enormous calves were plainly visible 
even through his ill-cut velveteen suit, but by a strange 
freak of nature his regular and rather effeminate features 
revealed an utter lack of energy, while his affected bearing 
and carefully combed whiskers gave him the appearance of 
a dapper dry-goods clerk disguised as an athlete. 

He had folded his arms, and was now contemplating with 
a decidedly tragical air the tall, yellow-haired booby, and 
the recumbent horse who was already philosophically nib- 
bling the grass by the road-side. 

But his ominous silence was not of long duration, and he 
resumed his remarks in the husky voice common to persons 
who are in the habit of talking a great deal in the open 
air. 

" Poltroon!" he cried, brandishing his cane, " how ever 
did you manage to upset the wagon into a ditch upon a 
macadamized road, in the heart of an imperial forest. You 
certainly must have been asleep, sound asleep, like the idiot 
that you are!" 

" Master," replied the unfortunate coachman in a drawl- 
ing, monotonous tone, " so far as being asleep is concerned 
I do not deny the charge. Sleep is a necessity of the 
human organization which is always proportionate to the 
age of the individual, anu as I have just concluded my 
tweuty-sixth year, I have a right to at least eight hours of 
repose. Now we left the fair at Poissy exactly at midnight; 
and if I may judge by the position of the Great Bear rela- 



10 THE BED BAND. 

tive to the zenith, it must now be about six o'clock in the 
morning, so I have only obeyed the dictates of nature. " 

" But you haven't obeyed me, you infernal scoundrel," 
interrupted the bearded man. " I don't hire you to sleep. 
We have lost our way — that is certain — for we ought to 
have been at Saint Germain a long time ago. If I had not 
been foolish enough to go to sleep, too, I should have dis- 
covered the fact before." 

" You, master, who are forty-seven years old, require 
only six hours of sleep," observed the coachman. 

" Do, for Heaven's sake, hold your tongue," said the 
master, angrily, " and take the lantern and walk on ahead, 
so I can have a little idea where I am going. Eegina," he 
cried, turning to the vehicle, " Regina, my girl, stay there, 
my girl. I will soon be back. " 

No one replied, and the Hercules said to himself, with a 
shrug of the shoulders' — 

"What a fool I am! I am always forgetting that the 
child is deaf and dumb. Come, Alcindor, come on!" 

The possessor of this romantic name obeyed without 
making any reply. The road, badly washed by recent 
rains, was detestable; and the employer, who was much 
less nimble in his movements than the attenuated Alcindor, 
stumbled at every step, and uttered a formidable volley of 
oaths at each mishap. 

After ten minutes of this difficult progress, they came to 
an opening surrounded by venerable trees, from which five 
or six different roads radiated, and in the center of which 
stood a guide-post. 

" We are saved! here is a guide-post!" exclaimed Alcin- 
dor, quickening his pace. As he spoke, he lifted his lan- 
tern high in the air, and he finally succeeded in deciphering 
the inscription — 

'' ' Etoile duChene-Capitaine.' What a pretty name!" 
he exclaimed. " There must be some legend connected 
with it. If I had time I would write a romance about it. " 



THE KED BAND. 11 

" Silence, fool!" growled his employer; " you had better 
find our road, instead of talking so much nonsense. ' ' 

" That is no easy matter, master, "plaintively murmured 
Alcindor, scratching his head. " But look! there is a 
light," he added, pointing to a road leading to the left. 

" It must be some wood-cutter's hut. "We are lucky in- 
deed. Come on," said the athlete, gayly, evidently en- 
couraged by this unexpected piece of good fortune. 

Alcindor, however, did not move, for the light, which 
was quite a distance off, seemed to be moving about, and 
sometimes entirely disappeared from sight. 

" That is strange," remarked his companion, when his 
attention was called to the fact. " It may be the torch of 
some gamekeeper who is making his nightly round. We 
had better get near enough to see without being seen. Let 
us put out our lantern and walk softly/ * 

Alcindor imitated the movements of his master, who had 
already started toward the light, adopting all the precau- 
tions usually practiced by poachers. 

The weather, too, was very favorable to this attempted 
reconnaissance. The storm had increased in fury, and the 
sound of their footsteps was drowned by the moaning of the 
wind through the trees; so they reached the edge of a re- 
cent clearing without revealing their approach. Even there 
they found that the light was still some distance from them, 
but the sound of regular and measured footsteps was dis- 
tinctly audible to the keen ears of these eager listeners. 

Alcindor, thanks to his long legs, could see the furthest, 
and what he saw must have been quite alarming in its nat- 
ure, for after a moment he seized his master's arm and 
whispered excitedly, " Let us run, master, let us run!" 

" What has come over you, idiot?" muttered the 
athlete. 

" Look!" murmured Alcindor, pointing to a colossal oak 
that stood alone in the center of the clearing, "look, they 
are burying somebody. " 



i-'i THE BED BAHD. 

" Or something," growled the master, who did not seem 
to share his companion's dismay. And creeping stealthily 
along, the athlete succeeded in making his way to the shel- 
ter of a large rock, from which he could distinctly see what 
was going on about twenty yards from him. 

The light which had attracted him and his driver to the 
spot came from a large lantern that was hanging upon one 
of the lower branches of the tree, beneath which two men, 
each armed with a spade, were engaged in filling up a long 
and narrow opening in the ground. 

At such an hour and in such a spot this seemed a very 
strange task, especially as these workers were neither labor- 
ers nor peasants. Clad in long frock-coats, buttoned 
tightly to the chin, and in trim silk hais that shone brightly 
in the light of the lantern, they seemed to have arrayed 
themselves carefully for some ceremony, and their semi- 
official costume contrasted strikingly with the manual labor 
they were performing with so much ardor. One of them 
had even neglected to remove his gloves, and was handling 
the spade with hands incased in black kids. 

The air of profound secrecy with winch they were sur- 
rounded was evident, but it was difficult to divine the real 
object of their efforts, for their task was nearly completed 
when Alcindor discovered them, and the loose earth which 
had been replaced with so much alacrity might conceal 
either a corpse or a box of treasure. 

Alcindor, who had crept cautiously to his master's side, 
was under the spell of a terror which was the more intoler- 
able from the fact that he dared give vent to it neither in 
words nor in gestures. He felt convinced that he was wit- 
nessing the last scene of a tragedy which would inevitably 
be unraveled before the Court of Assizes, and, instinctively 
fearing legal proceedings of any sort, he secretly cursed the 
accident which had brought him to the Etoile du Chene- 
Capitaine. 

His employer, on the contrary, wore the eminently satis- 



THE KED BAND. 13 

fied air of a speculator who has just discovered an excellent 
investment. He evidently thought he had a secret from 
which he could subsequently coin money, and troubled him- 
self very little about the immediate consequences of his in- 
discretion. 

" They have finished, master; let us get away as soon as 
we can/' whispered the unfortunate lad. 

The task did indeed seem completed; and the man 
wearing the black gloves had folded his arms like a work- 
man resting after an arduous task. His companion, how- 
ever, instantly set to work to cover the freshly stirred earth 
with leaves; and he labored with such remarkable zeal and 
dexterity that in less than a quarter of an hour the soil was 
leveled and the place covered with a thick layer of autumn 
leaves, and so adroitly was the work done that no one save 
a witness of the strange scene would have suspected the 
mysterious interment which had just been accomplished. 
Then, while he was hiding the spades in some bushes on 
the edge of the clearing, the man who had been standing 
under the tree extinguished the lantern, and the disappear- 
ance of this artificial light made the first faint light of dawn 
more perceptible. 

After taking these precautions, the two men rejoined 
each other, and directed their course toward the very spot 
where the terrified Alcindor and his master were standing. 
They walked along, side by side, slowly and silently, like 
persons absorbed in thought. The taller of the two, the 
one who carried the lantern, was of medium height, 
slender, and distinguished in bearing. The other, who ap- 
peared much older, had a large head buried between 
shoulders of unequal height, and though he did not exactly 
limp, his gait was peculiar, and gave a person the impres- 
sion that one leg was shorter than the other. 

This was all the athlete had a chance to notice, for, see- 
ing the strangers approach, he hastily crouched under some 
bushes, and Alcindor lost no time in following his example. 



14 



THE RED BAND. 



A*f ter a moment of waiting, which was by no means free 
from anxiety, the sound of a shrill voice met their ears. 

" We sha'n't have long to wait/' said the speaker. 
" The meeting is to be at five o'clock, and Saint Senier 
tvill be punctual, like the fool of a so.ldier that he is. Let 
us remain here. This is a good place to rest, and you cer- 
tainly must feel a need of it." 

" Yes, I am rather afraid that I have overtired my 
arm/' replied a graver voice. 

" I told you to let me do the shoveling, but you wouldn't 
listen to me. " 

"I don't know why it is," replied the other, "but I 
never felt in worse trim. The damp weather of late has 
unsettled my nerves, to say nothing of the fact that Eose 
has been decidedly out of sorts for two days past, and 
treated me to a scene last night." 

"Smoke a cigar, and let women alone if you desire to 
become a political magnate. " 

This wise counsel was not very graciously received. 

" Taupier, my friend/' replied the other, lightly, "you 
are simply a fool, and that you certainly have no right to 
be, being a hunchback. " 

" Thanks," growled the person thus classified. 

" Don't thank me, but merely answer me. Of what 
earthly use is it to have money and fame if one is obliged 
to renounce the society of the ladies?" 

" I have renounced it." 

"I am not so sure of that. It is said that you are in 
love with the fair Eence, my opponent's sister. I even 
heard the other day that you had been seen waiting at the 
door of the Madeleine after mass to offer your divinity the 
holy water." 

" It is false." 

" Oh, don't get angry. I'll take it all back, and deny 
the report everywhere, if you like." 

"I am sure I wish you would, but now you had better 



THE RED BAND. 1T> 

think only of taking such good aim as will effectually rid 
me of this Saint Senier, who is certainly very much in my 
way." 

After this response, there was a silence, which afforded the 
athlete an opportunity for reflection. To tell the truth, he 
was deeply disappointed, for what he had just overheard 
furnished no clew to the mystery. This fact, however, 
made him only the more anxious to listen to the end, in the 
hope that some chance remark might put him on the track. 

" I feel sure, however, that I shall not miss my aim, 
and that he will be the one to fall, " remarked the gloved 
man slowly. " Why did you consent to the use of pis- 
tols?" 

" Because you are a tolerable shot, while you have been 
wounded in every duel you have fought with the sword. " 

" My father died from a bullet, and I have a presenti- 
ment that I shall end in the same way." 

" Your father died upon a barricade, and the days of 
barricades are past now, for we are living under a republic. ' ' 

" Who can say? France was also a republic on the 24th 
of June, 1848, the very day my father was shot in the 
back, at the entrance into the Faubourg du Temple. " 

" How strange it is that you should think of that to- 
day/' remarked Taupier, with evident dissatisfaction. " But 
steady your nerves, Valnoir. I hear footsteps approach- 
ing, and it is probably Saint Senier arriving with his 
seconds." 

" Who is to fire first?" 

" He is. Your article was so offensive that he justly 
considers himself the aggrieved party." 

" Then I am a dead man." 

" Oh, I'll take care to prevent that," muttered Taupier, 
between his set teeth, but not low enough for his words to 
escape the ears of the athlete who was listening with breath- 
less eagerness. 

Day had dawned — a dull cloudy day. The wind had 



16 



THE BED BAND. 



abated, the rain had ceased, but though the moisture was 
still dripping softly from the leaves, in the comparative 
silence footsteps could be heard at quite a long distance; 
still it was only a moment or two before the new arrivals 
made their appearance at the other end of the clearing. 

There were three of them — a very young officer, whose 
ample cloak nearly concealed his uniform, and two older 
men, whose military bearing did not correspond with the 
civilian's garb they wore. 

The taller of these two men wore in his button-hole the 
red ribbon of the Legion of Honor, and his fair whiskers, 
trimmed in the English fashion, indicated plainly the 
branch of the service to which he must belong. In a naval 
officer alone could be united these three conditions, an ab- 
sence of mustaches, this decoration, and the rather stern 
and stiff manner which the habit of command imparts. 

The other, with his smoothly shaven cheeks, and sharply 
pointed mustache and goatee, strongly resembled one of 
the famous guards of Henry III. ; while his olive com- 
plexion and the quickness of his movements betrayed his 
southern descent. 

This gentleman carried under his arm a long flat box 
that undoubtedly contained a pair of pistols. The little 
party was met in the middle* of the clearing by the two 
gentlemen who seemed to have been waiting for them; but 
after bowing to each other with the grave politeness cus- 
tomary on such occasions, the naval officer and the gloved 
gentleman each retired a short distance from the other 
members of the group. They evidently were the two op- 
ponents. 

The other three, as good luck would have it, approached 
the spot where Alcindor and his master were crouching, to 
hold a consultation. 

The holder of the box of pistols seemed to have assumed 
the direction of affairs, and he began by introducing the 
two seconds to each other. 



THE RED BAND. 17 

" Monsieur Pierre Taupier, man of letters; Monsieur 
Roger de Saint Senier, lieutenant in the Civil Guard," he 
said, with a volubility which was perhaps not entirely free 
from embarrassment. 

The young officer bowed coldly, without uttering a word, 
but Valnoir 's frieud asked hastily. 

" Then monsieur is the brother of Commander Saint 
Senier, I presume?" 

" On the contrary, monsieur is the commander's cousin, 
and he comes here rather in the character of a relative than 
a second, as Valnoir has not had time to secure another/ * 
replied the southerner. 

" Very well, my dear Podensac, then it is with you alone 
that I am to decide upon the rules.that are to govern the 
affair, I suppose?" 

" They have already been settled. Being the offended 
party, as Monsieur Charles de Valnoir himself admits, 
Commander Louis de Saint Senier has a right to every 
possible advantage in the ensuing combat. He has chosen 
the pistol, as you are aware, and he is to have the first 
shot. They are to fight at a distance of twenty-five paces, 
fire at the word of command, and if three shots are ex- 
changed without effect, the affair is to be considered 
ended. Is not this the understanding?" 

The other second made a sign of assent. 

"In view of the gravity of the offense," continued 
Podensac, " I think it is useless to hope that the difference 
can be satisfactorily adjusted in any other way." 

" Perfectly useless, sir," replied the young officer. " My 
relative is very grateful to you for having kindly consented 
to act as his second, but it is his express wish that there 
should be no attempt at a reconciliation.'" 

" That is exactly what I supposed, lieutenant." 

" I should add, however, " continued the young officer, 

" that if this encounter should prove fatal to my relative, 

I, myself, intend to demand satisfaction of Monsieur de 



18 THE KED BAND. 

Valnoir. He has insulted a person bearing my name, so 
the commander is not the only person involved — '' 

" Excuse me, excuse me," interrupted Taupier, " but 
one is not obliged to fight but once for the same offense; 
besides, it is contrary to custom — " 

" This is certainly a point that can be discussed later, 
interposed Podensac, who seemed anxious to have the affair 
over with. "While we load the pistols, will you, sir, 
measure off the distance?" he added, turning to the young 
officer. 

The latter bowed his acquiescence. 

"What the devil induced you to bring that young fool 
of an officer?" growled Taupier, as soon as Lieutenant de 
Saint Senier was out of hearing. " We had enough soldiers 
mixed up in the affair already without him." 

" You journalists are all alike," replied Podensac, 
shrugging his shoulders. " How could I prevent the com- 
mander from bringing his cousin. Besides, I advise you 
not to speak slightingly of the military. T am almost sure 
to be elected colonel of the enfants pcrchts of the Eue 
Maubuee, so you owe me a certain amount of respect, 
as well as a complimentary notice in your stupid old 
paper. " 

" We will see about that," said Taupier, evidently not 
in the best of humor. " Open that box, and let me load 
the pistols." 

"You! you would be quite capable of putting in the 
bullets before you did the jjowder." 

Tnupier's gray eyes flashed fire, and his face assumed a 
livid hue. 

" Citizen Podensac," he hissed through his set teeth, " I 
am your superior officer, and I warn you that I shall report 
your insolence to the committee. " 

The man with the pointed beard hesitated an instant 
but the hunchback's threat had produced its effect, and he 
finally obeyed, growling: 



THE RED BAND. 19 

" Yes, yes. I know it. The civil element is to govern 
the martial, and I am only a plain trooper. Here are the 
pistols. All that it is necessary to do is to load them, and 
I can certainly trust you to do that in a perfectly fair man- 
ner. A duel, you know, is a sacred thing, even when one 
is fighting with a political enemy." 

Taupier stole a furtive glance at Podensac as he took the 
open box the latter extended. 

"Will you kindly fetch that handsome young fellow?" 
he remarked. "I see he has just finished measuring the 
distance, and I want him to witness the operation. Where 
are the bullets?" 

" Here are six." 

As soon as the prospective colonel of the strange regi- 
ment recruited on the Rue Maubuee had turned away, 
Taupier hastily set the box down on the grass, picked up 
one of the pistols and began to load it. 

Contrary to Podensac' s laughing prediction, he began by 
pouring in the powder, however. 

When he had reached this stage of the operation, he cast 
a hurried glance about him. 

Valnoir was promenading to and fro on the other side of 
the clearing; young Lieutenant de Saint Senier had just 
finished measuring the distance, and was now talking with 
his cousin, who was standing at the foot of the giant oak. 

Podensac was about to join them. 

In the twinkling of an eye, the hunchback, who had been 
holding a bullet between his thumb and finger, tossed it 
into the very clump of shrubbery in which Alcindor and 
his master were hiding, and with a dexterity that would 
have done honor to a professional prestidigitateur, sub- 
stituted for it a round object which he hastily rammed 
down into the barrel; after which, he quietly laid the 
weapon on the grass, and picked up the other pistol. 

By a strange chance, the bullet struck Alcindor full in 
the face, and he uttered a moan that was promptly stifled 



20 THE RED BAND. 

by an imperious gesture from his master; nevertheless 
Taupier would certainly have noticed it had not his atten- 
tion been directed elsewhere. 

The opponents, accompanied by their seconds, were ap- 
proaching, and he was furtively watching them. 

" My work is completed, gentlemen. Would you like to 
examine the weapons?" he remarked, addressing the young 
officer, who, instead of replying, examined the triggers, 
measured the height of the charges, which proved to be 
identical, and returned the pistols to Taupier. 

There was a moment of embarrassing silence. The 
hunchback lowered his eyes, as he stood, holding the 
weapons in his right hand, which trembled visibly. He 
seemed afraid to offer to these men the weapons upon which 
their lives depended. But suddenly he raised his head as 
if he had made a sudden resolve, and said brusquely: 

" Choose, gentlemen!" 

Valnoir bowed politely, and left the first choice to his 
opponent, who took the weapon nearest him without even 
glancing at it. 

" Yes," muttered the concealed athlete, who had 
watched the minutest detail of the whole scene with the 
closest attention, " I know the trick. It is the marked 
card." 

Alcindor, who was still lying tranquilly upon his back, 
saw none of these maneuvers which interested his employer 
so deeply, though a closer observer than the athlete would 
certainly have judged by certain nervous tremors which 
occasionally passed over him that this indifference was more 
apparent than real. 

The denouement was rapidly approaching, for the two 
principals were already on their way to the places assigned 
them. 

The naval officer was leaning upon his cousin's arm, and 
giving him some instructions with unruffled tranquillity. 
Valnoir was escorted by his friend Taupier, and his excited 



THE BED BAND. 21 

gestures contrasted strikingly with M. de Saiut-Seuier's 
calm manner. 

" Are they going to fire soon, master?" whispered Alcin- 
dor, without making the slightest change in his posture, 
however. 

" You heard them, then?" growled the athlete, greatly 
surprised. " Well, I advise you to keep on playing 
dead." 

" Oh, I am interested only from an acoustic point of 
view. Sound travels at the rate of about ten hundred and 
ninety feet a second, and I should like to calculate — " 

This statement of the problem the reclining youth was 
anxious to solve was interrupted by the sonorous voice of 
Podensac, who, from his stand in the middle of the clear- 
ing, uttered the usual question — 

" Are you ready, gentlemen?" 

The combatants answered in the affirmative by a nod of 
the head. 

" When I clap my hands for the third time, Monsieur de 
Saint Senier will fire," resumed Podensac, " and Monsieur 
de Valnoir is* at liberty to immediately return the fire." 

A few seconds of appalling silence followed. Steeled as 
he was against emotion of any kind, the athlete, though he 
did not once remove his eyes from the scene before him, 
passed his big hand hastily over his beard, a sure sign of 
intense excitement with him. 

The clear trill of a lark that was singing in the branches 
was interrupted by the signal given by Podensac, and the 
naval officer's shot rang out simultaneously with the last 
clap of Podensac's hands. 

" Missed!" muttered the athlete. 

Valnoir had started slightly, but he retained his former 
erect position. 

"That is strange!" murmured Alcindor, "I did not 
hear the bullet pass, so it is impossible for me to calculate 
the distance." 






22 THE BED BAND. 

Almost instantly Valnoir fired with a haste that denoted 
a very meager amount of sang-froid. 

" This time I heard the bullet whistle through the air ; 
murmured the philosophical youth, " and the square of the 
distances — " 

" Mille tonnerres ! he is dead!" cried the athlete, for- 
getting that he might be overheard. 

But his exclamation was drowned by the hubbub that fol- 
lowed the second shot, for M. de Saint Senier had fallen 
face downward upon the ground. 

The seconds both sprung toward him at the same in- 
stant, and Valnoir threw away his pistol with a gesture of 
regret that was too spontaneous not to be sincere. 

" He was killed instantly," whispered Podensac in Tau- 
pier's ear. 

" Louis! Louis! speak to me!" cried the young lieutenant, 
seizing the hand of his unfortunate cousin whose death was 
only too certain, for his fixed eyes and the livid pallor that 
had overspread his face indicated plainly enough that he 
had been wounded in the immediate vicinity of the heart. 
The bleeding, too, had been almost entirely internal, and 
indicated an instantaneous death. 

" He did not suffer, and surely soldiers like ourselves 
should envy him his end," resumed Podensac, who could 
find no other words of consolation to offer to the grief- 
stricken relative. 

But the young officer did not seem to hear them. He 
had thrown himself down upon his knees beside the dead 
man, gazing at him with wild, despairing eyes, and repeat- 
ing over and over again a woman's name : " Renee ! Eenee I" 

After some rather constrained expressions of regret, 
Taupier deemed it advisable to leave the sorrowing group 
and rejoin his friend Valnoir, who seemed greatly dis- 
tressed about the result of the combat, and who was now 
sitting — back to the party — with his face buried in his 
hands. 



THE 11EIJ liANJU. Zj 

The athlete as yet had not moved a muscle. He felt 
sure he had happened upon a double mystery, by which he 
could profit beyond a doubt, and he understood perfectly 
that if he should allow the actors in this thrilling drama to 
depart he would lose the most important clew of all. On 
the other hand, he was by no means anxious to become 
mixed up in an affair which had resulted in a man's 
death. 

The gendarmes or the forest guards might appear upon 
the scene of action at any moment, and the traveling artist 
intuitively dreaded any collision with the representatives of 
authority. The wisest course would certainly be to make 
his way back to the carriage; but it was a very difficult 
matter to get away without being seen, and yet it would be 
still worse to run a risk of being caught there in the very 
act of playing the spy. 

More undecided than ever after this reflection, the athlete 
stroked his beard nervously, and even went so far as to 
glance questioningly at his subordinate, of whom he was 
not wont to ask advice. 

Alcindor had not changed his position, and seemed to be 
still absorbed in profound calculations, for he had half 
closed his eyes and was mumbling over a lot of figures. 

His master, becoming impatient, was about to give him 
a kick to arouse him from his arithmetical calculations, 
when the youth suddenly sprung to his feet as if moved by 
a spring, and ejaculated — 

" Eegina!" 

The natural effect of this movement was to bring his 
startled face suddenly above the tangled mass of shrubbery 
and undergrowth, in which its possessor had lain concealed, 
and thus reveal it to the astonished gaze of the actors in 
this tragedy that had just been enacted in the clearing. 

A strange creature, too, had suddenly appeared to view 
only a few steps from the group that had gathered round 
the dead body of M. de Saint Senior — so strange, indeed, 



24 THE RED BAND. 

that at the first glance it was difficult to determine the sex 
of the fantastically dressed being whose scarlet robe con- 
trasted vividly with the dark-green undergrowth from 
which it had just emerged. 

The face of the apparition was as peculiar as its costume. 
A face crowned with jet-black hair, illumined with glitter- 
ing eyes, and bronzed by the tropical sun, surmounted a 
long neck adorned with several coral necklaces. The slight, 
supple figure undulated under the folds of a short scarlet 
frock that reached only midway to her ankles, and her arms 
were bare and adorned with a number of tawdry brace- 
lets. 

This phantom, which certainly would not have been out 
of place in the fifth act of a fairy play, had walked so light- 
ly that there had been no sound to warn those present of 
her approach, and it must have been that instinct which 
warns us of the presence of a person we can not see that 
aroused Alcindor from his mathematical calculations. 

His master, compelled to show himself, though sorely 
against his will, stepped from his place 01 concealment, 
pale with surprise and anger, so the seconds perceived 
three strangers near them almost at the same instant. 

Podensac, being constitutionally averse to anything like 
uncertainty, marched straight toward the intruders with the 
intention of subjecting them to a rather rude examination, 
but the athlete prudently decided to take the initiative. 

"Beg pardoD, gentlemen," he began, raising his hand 
to his forehead, and executing with his right leg the sort of 
glissade that forms the traditional salute of professional 
showmen, " I am a traveling artist, named Antoine Pile- 
vert, at your service." 

" What brought you here?" interrupted Taupier, who 
seemed greatly annoyed at this intrusion. " Instead of 
telling us your name, you had better explain what you are 
doing here?" 

" Lost in the forest with my pupils. I was attracted 



THE UED BAND. 25 

here by the sound of pistol shots; but I can see that this is 
an affair of honor, and being naturally discreet, you can 
count upon — " 

"Your silence!'' interrupted Podensac. "Yes, I feel 
sure of that; but this is not really the question just now. 
Have you a carriage?" 

" A rude one, sir." 

" Then you can assist us in transporting —a wounded 
man to Saint Germain." 

"A wounded man or a dead man, as you please, gen- 
eral," replied Pilevert, becoming more and more deferen- 
tial in his manner. 

" Well, one of our friends has just been dangerously 
wounded in a duel, and as it would take us a long time to 
procure a carriage, perhaps you will be kind enough to loan 
us yours:" 

" With pleasure, general, as I said before," replied Pile- 
vert; " but you would do well to make haste, for the Prus- 
sians are rapidly approaching, and it would be a pity for us 
to be caught. " 

; ' The Prussians? Nonsense! They haven't reached 
Eheims yet. " 

" Possibly; but I know that some Uhlans were seen near 
Pontoise yesterday. Ask my pupil if you do not believe 
me. " 

Alcindor thus appealed to, resolved not to miss such an 
excellent opportunity to air his knowledge. 

" It may be that the main body of the German army is 
still lingering in the Cataloniau fields; but yesterday we 
heard of the near approach of the advance guard at Poissy, 
where we spent the night at the tavern of the Sturgeon, 
acipen scr Jiuviah s. ' ' 

This response, by which Master Pilevert's pupil proved 
himself to be at once a strategist, a naturalist, and a lin- 
guist, seemed to make a deep impression upon Podensac. 

" Then there is all the more need for us to make haste," 



26 THE RED BANK. 

he said quickly. " Is your horse in condition to take us to 
Saint Germain in an hour?" 

" Bradamante is not a rapid traveler, but she has a good 
deal of endurance; and I think we had better go straight 
to Paris, especially as I am called there by urgent busi- 
ness. " 

" But we should never get there/'' 

' ' But we could easily get there by to-morrow, and then 
we should be out of the reach of the Prussians/' 

Podensac seemed undecided; but Taupier, who probably 
realized the necessity of settling the question immediately, 
undertook to do it by remarking — 

" You must understand that Valnoir can not be allowed 
to remain here. I am going to get him away as soon as 
possible, for he seems completely overcome. " 

"I think no worse of him on that account," growled 
Podensac, " for though I spent five years in Mexico, where 
one becomes accustomed to almost anything, I must admit 
that the commander's death has moved me deeply. " 

" It has had no particular effect upon me, "said Taupier. 
" Indeed, I feel quite capable — " 

" It is evident that you have nothing resembling a heart 
in your organization," cried Podensac, deeply incensed at 
this display of indifference; " and I advise you to leave as 
soon as possible. I, with the aid of the lieutenant, will at- 
tend to taking the body back to Paris. " 

" Very well, I will go, then. I shall expect to meet you 
at the rooms of the Central Committee on Saturday. You 
know very well that your nomination can not be secured 
without my assistance. My paper is very generally read on 
the Rue Maubuee." 

And turning on his heel, he walked away. 

"Dog of a journalist!" muttered Podensac, "how 
quickly I would send you to the devil if I were not afraid 
of your innuendoes!" 

The hunchback either did not hear the remark or he 



THE RED BAND. 27 

pretended not to hear it, for he sauntered toward his friend 
Valnoir, who had not moved since he became aware of his 
opponent's fate. 

" Well, as the matter is settled, we had better lose no 
time," Podensac remarked to the athlete. " Fetch your 
vehicle; I will wait for you here. You," he added, turning 
to Alcindor, " had better stand guard in the road to prevent 
any one from disturbing us. As for the young girl, I 
hardly know what we shall do with her; but she can re- 
main where she is for the present." 

" She will not trouble you; she is deaf and dumb," re- 
marked Pilevert. 

" So much the better. I can't endure chatter-boxes." 

The singular creature known as Regina had moved away 
as soon as Taupier began to take part in the conversation. 
One might have supposed that she shunned any contact 
with the deformed creature as good fairies shun the presence 
of evil geniuses. 

She was certainly a young girl, and in spite of the strange- 
ness of her costume and coiffure there was an indefinable 
charm about her. Her irregular features were irradiated 
by an expression of wonderful kindness, and her large black 
eyes sparkled with intelligence. She had just seated her- 
self by the dead man's side, and taken one of his hands in 
hers. The young officer who was kneeling beside the body 
had not heard her step, which was as light as that of a bird, 
and he was now gazing at her in silent astonishment. 

" In fact, women are always useful in an ambulance," 
muttered Podensac. " Go ahead, my men, I shall look for 
you in a quarter of an hour. " 

Alcindor obeyed without a word, but not without bestow- 
ing a melancholy glance on Eegina. Pilevert, well satisfied 
with his morning's work, hastened back to the ravine. 

There, by the most desperate efforts, they succeeded in 
righting the ponderous vehicle. Bradamante was rehar- 
nessed to it, and in about twenty minutes Pilevert drove his 



28 



THE RED BAND 



vehicle triumphantly into the clearing, where Podensac was 
anxiously awaiting him. 

Regina was still holding the dead man's hand. 

Valnoir and his second had both disappeared. 



CHAPTER II. 

On a sultry September evening, three days after the 
events related in the previous chapter, a beautiful woman 
was leaning over the balcony of one of the handsomest 
houses on the Place de la Madeleine, gazing down at the 
animated scene below. 

To see the idle and noisy throng, one would never have 
suspected that Paris, which had been completely surround- 
ed since the day before, was about to be cut off from the 
rest of the world for five long and dreary months. 

The only thing that reminded one of the real situation of 
affairs was the thick dust which filled the entire air, and 
which was a peculiarity of the beginning of the siege. 

Several large flocks of sheep, frightened by the moving 
vehicles, were rushing madly up the Boulevard Malesher- 
bes, and the crowd watched them pass with laughing curi- 
osity, gayly calculating the days of resistance that this live 
stock represented. 

The lovely eyes of the lady upon the balcony gazed down 
at the crowd with the haughty disdain she thought due to 
persons who were obliged to go afoot. Occasionally, she 
glanced carelessly after some carriage in which she fancied 
she had recognized a familiar face, but turned away with 
an impatient movement on discovering that she had just 
honored with her attention a common hackney coach, laden 
with strangers. 

Finally, weary of the scene, and annoyed by the curi- 
osity which she seemed to inspire in the passers-by, she 
abruptly quitted the balcony, and stepped back into the 
drawing-room, exclaiming aloud— 



THE RED BAHD. 29 

'" These people are intolerable! What a fool I was to 
remain in Paris!" 

The fair speaker, who rejoiced in the euphonious name of 
Rose de Charmiere, was a tall and beautiful woman. At 
least her beauty was unquestionable, if handsome eyes, a 
low, broad forehead, straight nose, and small mouth may 
be said to constitute beauty. Nature had made her a de- 
cided brunette, and the golden tint which Art had imparted 
to her hair, must have cost her more than one visit to an 
expert hair dyer, but her clear, colorless skin required 
none of the artificial aids to which so many ladies re- 
sort. 

Her teeth were superb, her ears small, her feet slender 
and shapely, but her hands, in spite of the assiduous care 
lavished ««on them, lacked distinction, as the tout ensemble 
lacked enarm. 

Her age was an unsolved problem, even to her most in- 
timate friends. The unsophisticated thought her about 
twenty; keener observers supposed her to be about twenty- 
five; while some old frequenters of the turf, more deeply 
versed in such matters, bluntly declared that the fair Eose 
was considerably over thirty. 

The young lady's mind chanced to be in an unusually 
perturbed state that day, in consequence of a long conver- 
sation that she had just held with the manager of her busi- 
ness affairs, but soon after her return to the drawing-room, 
her meditations upon the difficulty of placing loans at a 
heavy rate of interest were interrupted by the entrance of 
her maid. 

" What is it, Fanfine?" inquired Eose, wearily. 

"Monsieur Charles de Valnoir wishes to see made- 
moiselle. Shall I tell him that mademoiselle is suffering 
with headache?" added tbs shrewd girl. 

" No, show him in," replied Eose, in the resigned tone 
of an official obliged to grant a tiresome audience. 

The maid disappeared, and a few moments afterward the 



30 



THE RED BAND. 



portiere was again lifted to admit the survivor of the Saint 
Germain duel. 

He was dressed in the height of fashion, as usual, but he 
was very pale. 

"Is it you, Charles?" asked Mile, de Charmiere. "I 
didn't expect to see you before seven o'clock." 

" This is, in fact, the hour at which all respectable 
people dine," replied Valnoir shortly, "and I am guilty 
of a great breach of good manners in calling too early." 

There was a moment's silence, which Rose devoted to 
tranquilly lighting a cigarette. 

" You have been really unendurable for the past three or 
four days," she remarked, at last. " Because you have 
fought a duel is no excuse for putting on such funereal 
airs. " 

" You forget that I had the misfortune to kill a man," 
retorted Valnoir, with suppressed vehemence. 

"I really thought you had more sense," replied Mile, 
de Charmiere, scornfully. " When one is of noble birth, 
one doesn't attach such importance to a duel; one leaves 
such emotions to school-boys. Let us talk business. I like 
that theme much better. " 

"So be it," replied the young man, making a violent 
effort at self control. " The ' Serpenteau ' has appeared, 
and seems likely to prove a great success. " 

" What is the ' Serpenteau '?" 

" A paper I have started, as I have told you at least 
twenty times before." 

As he spoke, he dashed his hat upon his head, and 
stepped hastily out upon the balcony. 

" Are you too warm, my dear?" remarked Rose. " It 
is stifling here, and I think I will join you," she added 
stepping to the window. 

Her lover seemed to be absorbed in contemplating tho 
front of the Madeleine, but he had turned very pale. 

" What are you looking at?" she asked. 



THE RED BAND. 31 

A lady, dressed in black, was slowly ascending the church 
steps, and Valnoir was watching her with feverish eyes. 

" Ah, I understand," said Mile, de Charmiere, who had 
provided herself with an opera-glass. " You come here, it 
seems, to see the beautiful Eenee de Saint Senier go to 
church." 

•'Go inside, go inside instantly!" cried Valnoir, seizing 
Eose almost roughly by the arm. 

That young lady, being constitutionally averse to any- 
thing like a scene in public, allowed him to lead her unre- 
sistingly from the balcony, though secretly vowing that she 
would have her revenge. In her inmost heart she cared 
very little whether her lover looked at Mile, de Saint Senier 
or not; she was determined to quarrel with him about it, 
merely for the principle of the thing. 

"It is shameful!" she exclaimed in a tone which was 
the more vehement from the fact that Valnoir had really 
hurt her arm a little in his excitement. " I might have 
known that you were nothing but a country bumpkin. " 

And having launched this thunder-bolt, she threw herself 
down upon the sofa with a movement in which pettishness 
and coquetry were skillfully blended. " You have no 
heart," she murmured, now half sadly. 

The fascination must have been very great for the young 
journalist to be deceived by this little comedy, but Circe 
has had many scholars, and Mile, de Charmiere had dis- 
covered the secret that changed Ulysses's companions into 
beasts. 

" No heart!" she continued, sobbing now with a 
dramatic talent of no mean order, "no heart! And to 
think that I consented to endure the dangers and priva- 
tions of a siege for the sake of a man who loves another! 
AVhat you have just done has wounded me deeply. To 
come here merely to see your divinity pass, how dastardly!" 

Valnoir turned pale and made a sudden movement as if 
with the intention of leaving the room, but Eose had 



32 THE RED BAND. 

shaken all her magnificent golden hair loose by a pettish 
toss of her beautiful head, and the love-charm was already 
beginning to operate. 

The slave resumed his chain before he had time to fly. 

" You know perfectly well that I have never inter- 
changed a word with Mademoiselle de Saint Senier," he 
replied, angrily; " besides — " 

" What difference does that make?" interrupted Mile, 
de Charmiere. " One can worship one's idol at a distance. 
I was foolish enough to fall in love with you at the first 
representation of one of your plays, and Heaven knows it 
was stupid enough." 

And Eose wept on, as she alone knew how to weep, with- 
out any hideous grimaces or contortions of the facial 
muscles, though at that very moment she was asking her- 
self whether or not she had better sell her government 
bonds, and invest the proceeds in the Credit Foncier. But 
upon Valnoir, who was already wavering, this last burst of 
tears produced a decisive effect. 

" Eose, my white Eose, what ails you?" he asked, plead- 
ingly, " and what can I do to make you happy again?" 

" Nothing, Charles, nothing," replied the enchantress, 
passing her fingers softly through her lover's hair. 

" But, listen," continued Valnoir. " I know what you 
have sacrificed for me, and I do not intend that you shall 
ever regret it. I have not told you all. I have a surprise 
for you. I have found a charming house at Auteuil, and I 
think I shall soon be able to purchase it, and furnish it for 
our future home." 

" You are mad, my dear Charles. Do you think that I 
would consent to blight the future of a talented man who 
has only his pen to depend upon?" 

" The pen is going to be a gold one, my Rosalind," re- 
plied Valnoir, " for in less than a month the ' Serpenteau ' 
will yield me an income of five hundred francs a day." 

" Indeed?" 



THE BED BAND. 33 

" Yes, my deafest, only Taupier declares that we must 
take a more liberal stand in politics. " 

" Your friend is right," answered Eose, gravely, after 
pausing a moment to make a pretense of drying her per- 
fectly dry eyes. " The people must be defended."' 

" I did not know that your opinions were so advanced," 
said Valnoir, laughing. 

" Ah, you do not know that I have suffered more than 
any child of the people," exclaimed Mile, de Charmiere, 
who had had time to assume an impassioned expression. 
"I, who was the offspring of noble parents, but born in 
poverty. The founder of our house died in Palestine — " 

Valnoir looked up and waited anxiously for what was to 
follow, but Eose prudently paused. 

" Why will you not allow me to make some search for 
your relations?" asked Valnoir, after a short silence. 

" What good would it do? My father squandered his 
property, and died in exile, and the only brother left me 
entered the Spanish army. Patents of nobility are of little 
value without fortune, and I am going to keep mine a 
secret until I become rich." 

Valnoir, touched to the heart, was about to reply with 
effusion, when a slight sound made him turn his head- 

The maid was standing beneath the folds of the raised 
portiere. 

" Some one desires to see mademoiselle," she an- 
nounced. 

"Who is it:" asked Eose, evidently much annoyed at 
the interruption. 

" I don't know. The visitor is not a gentleman, I am 
sure. " 

" Not a gentleman? Then -it must be some tradesman, 
I suppose?" 

" No, madame, it is a man I never saw before, and the 

strangest looking creature!" added the maid, her sides 

shaking with laughter. 
2 



34 



THE RED BAND. 



"Fanfme, my girl, lam in no mood for jesting," said 
her mistress, dryly. 

" Mademoiselle will excuse me, I am sure, for if she 
could see him, she would laugh more than I do." 

" See whom?" cried Mile, de Charmiere, impatiently. 

"A long-legged creature with long hair, who talks 
Latin." 

" You must be crazy. It is some beggar, probably, and 
you know I never encourage them. Send him away. " 

" Oh, no, mademoiselle, he is not a beggar. He even 
offered me a franc to usher him into the drawing-room, 
but you know very well, mademoiselle — " 

" What is his name?" 

" He didn't tell me, but he said that he was the bearer 
of a message from Monsieur Antoine Pilevert." 

This name had very much the effect of a thunder-bolt 
upon Mile, de Charmiere. 

" Pilevert!" she exclaimed, pale and trembling. " Im- 
possible!" 

" That was certainly the name." 

" But this — this Pilevert is not with him?" inquired 
Mile, de Charmiere in very evident consternation. 

" No, mademoiselle, he sent his groom, that is all," re- 
plied Fanfine, encouragingly, for she noticed her lady's 
evident embarrassment. 

" If I am in your way, my dear, I will leave," remarked 
Valnoir, in a tone that Eose could not fail to understand. 

At any other time, she would have responded in the same 
tone, but the late announcement seemed to have had a 
very softening effect upon the naturally arrogant nature of 
the beautiful Eose. 

" You are very much mistaken, my friend," she said 
gently. " The strange name you just heard has reminded 
me of a very sad episode in my life which I shall perhaps 
relate to you, some day. I must see this stranger, but I 
beg you will remain, or rather wait for me in my boudoir." 



THE RED BAND. 35 

And, without waiting for a reply, she opened the door 
and installed Valnoir in one of the arm-chairs in that 
charming retreat. 

As soon as she had shut her lover up where she could 
call upon him for assistance if necessary, but where he 
could hear nothing by reason of the thickness of the hang- 
ings, she took the further precaution to slip the bolt be- 
tween the two apartments. These preparations having also 
given her time to recover her self-possession, it was with a 
face as cold as a polar winter that she turned to Panfine, 
and said — 

" Show the man in. " 

The door finally opened, but no one entered, or father 
Mile, de Oharmiere could see only the lower limbs of a tall 
person whose lofty head rose above the gilt rod from which 
the portiere was suspended. 

This entrance was certainly comical enough to upset the 
gravity of any one, but on serious occasions Rose could 
even deprive herself of the gratification of smiling, and by 
this time the silken folds that concealed the visitor had 
been parted, and the tall form of Alcindor had become 
visible. 

The foreign artist had evidently sacrificed his rural tastes 
since his arrival in Paris, for the fantastic costume he wore 
in the forest of Saint Germain had undergone considerable 
modification. 

His long attenuated limbs were lost in a pair of gorgeous 
striped trousers, and the rest of his form was enveloped in 
a long gray alpaca duster. He was twirling a kepi in his 
hands, but in spite of this warlike head-covering, no one 
would have mistaken him for a genuine member of the 
National Guard. 

Eose read the social status of the new-comer at a 
glance. 

" What do you want of me?" she asked haughtily, toy- 
ing carelessly with a Turkish fan. 



36 



THE RED BAND. 



" I? Nothing," replied Alcindor, tranquilly swaying to 
and fro like a tall poplar upon a wind-swept plain. 

" Then what brought you here?" asked the lady, with 
increasing disdain. 

" There is a marked distinction to be made, madanie," 
said Alcindor, placing a forefinger thoughtfully on his nose. 
" I, myself, want nothing, but my master does." 

" And who is your master?" 

" Monsieur Antoine Pilevert, as I have already told the 
young girl that attends to your door — in Latin, paella, in 
German, madchen, in Spanish — " 

" Enough," cried Eose, unable to control her impatience. 
" I once knew a person of that name, but — " 

" So my master was right. It seems that you do know 
him," interrupted Alcindor. 

Eose de Charmiere bit her lips. Here, at the very first, 
she had committed a blunder that must be repaired with- 
out delay, if possible. 

" I tell you that you are mistaken," she said, though in 
a less arrogant tone; " for the person of whom I speak 
must have died a long time ago. What is my master's 
business?" 

"He travels, madame," replied Alcindor, majestic- 
ally. 

" That is not a profession." 

" It is his, however; and it is certainly the one best suit- 
ed to an artist." 

" He is an artist, then?" 

" Yes, madame; a gymnast of the first order. " 

" Gymnast?" repeated Eose, frowning. 
t " Yes; it is a word derived from the Greek." 

Mile, de Charmiere was not troubling herself much about 
etymologies just at that moment; but though she had no 
little trouble in hiding her dismay, she succeeded in assum- 
ing a tolerably indifferent air. 

" There certainly must be some mistake, youno- man " 



THE BED BAND. 37 

she said, rising; " and I am sorry that you took the trouble 
to- come here." 

"I don't doubt it," remarked Alcindor, preparing to 
beat a retreat; " and I will say as much to my master." 

"But who gave you my name and address?" inquired 
Mile, de Charmiere. 

" No one, madame. It was Monsieur Pilevert who 
thought he recognized you and sent me up. " 

" Eecognized me? And where did he see me, pray?" 

" Out there on the balcony. He has been walking about 
the square for an hour or more." 

Eose started as if stung by a serpent. 

" But who did he tell you to ask for?" she asked, in a 
voice that trembled with emotion. 

" It is hardly worth while to tell you," replied Alcindor, 
lifting the portiere. " He was certainly mistaken, for you 
assuredly can not answer to the name he mentioned." 

" I wish you would tell me, nevertheless," insisted Eose, 
trying to smile. 

" He told me to see you myself; and that is why I insist- 
ed upon coming in, for I wanted to ask you if your name 
was not — " 

"If my name was not what?" insisted Mile, de Char- 
miere, her eyes glittering with excitement. 

" Catiche, madame," stammered the unfortunate Alcin- 
dor, not a little frightened. 

There was a moment's silence. The lady had turned 
very pale. 

" Your master is an impertinent man," she said at last, 
with an evident effort, " and I beg that you will go at once 
and tell him that I know no Mademoiselle Catiche. " 

"To hear is to obey," said the youth gravely, raising 
both hands to his forehead after the fashion of slaves in an 
Eastern seraglio. 

He was about to open the door when the sound of a loud 
discussion reached them from the ante-chamber. 



38 THE BED BAND. 

Fanfine's shrill fvoice was elevated to its highest pitch, 
but it could not drown a gruff voice that poured out a tor- 
rent of oaths, repeating again and again, however — 
" It is she, I tell you; and I want to speak to her." 
Mile, de Charmiere must have recognized the voice, for 
her emotion so overwhelmed her that she was obliged to 
clutch the back of a chair for support. Almost at the 
same instant the door was thrown violently open, and a 
man rushed into the room with all the impetuosity of a 
wild bull. 

Pilevert, for it was he, was trembling with anger, and 
his eyes were flashing ominously. 

Mile, de Charmiere was partially concealed by the folds 
of the portiere, so he did not see her at first. 

"So she will not see me!" he cried; "she says she 
doesn't know me. We'll see about that." 

In the midst of this outburst of wrath, Hose de Ohar- 
miere, whose self-possession had been restored by the very 
imminence of the danger, stepped forward and laid her 
hand gently on the athlete's arm. 

" So here you are at last!" he yelled, turning upon her 
with a gesture that would have terrified any other woman. 
But Mile, de Charmiere, who was an expert in the art of 
taming wild beasts, did not flinch. 

" I think you'll hardly persist in saying that it isn't you 
any longer!" yelled Pilevert, shaking his fist threateningly 
in her face. 

"Pardon me, monsieur, for having kept you waiting," 
said Eose, with perfect sang-froid. " I entertained so lit- 
tle hope of meeting you again in Paris that I thought there 
must be some mistake when this lad told me your name. 
I supposed you were in Spain. " 

" I have just returned from there, and from even more 
distant lands," growled the athlete, whose anger was 
already beginning to cool. 

Mile, de Charmiere was looking him straight in the eyes 



THE RED BAND. 39 

as a tamer looks at a lion, and did not lose one of his move- 
ments. 

"As for my name/ ' added Pilevert, "it seems to me 
that you have good reasons for not forgetting that Madame 
— Madame — What name are you known by just now?" 

Rose probably did not think it advisable to make any 
direct reply to this question, for turning to her maid, who 
seemed to be listening to this edifying conversation with the 
liveliest interest, she said curtly — 

" Leave us; and remember that I am not at home to any 
one. I should like to have a long talk with you," she 
added, turning to the gymnast, who seemed to be struck 
dumb by her assurance, " and do not intend that any one 
shall disturb us. " 

" I — indeed — ah, well, that suits me. We certainly 
need no witnesses for what we have to say to each other; so 
you, Pierrot, can go and wait for me in the square below." 

"Very well, master," replied Alcindor, suiting the 
action to the word. 

The two principal actors in this family scene now found 
themselves alone. 

They gazed at each other a moment without uttering a 
word, like two wrestlers who measure each other's strength 
before beginning the contest. 

It was Mile, de Charmifire who first broke the silence. 

" Sit down, Antoine," she said in her sweetest voice. 

The tone in which this invitation was uttered completely 
disarmed the athlete, who had evidently expected an en- 
tirely differenf mode of attack. 

" It isn't worth while," he growled, trying to revive the 
anger which was gradually evaporating under the influence 
of his companion's tender and persuasive accents. " We 
can talk just as well standing." 

The lady's only reply was to take possession of her vis- 
itor's brawny hand and. compel him to seat himself beside 
her on the sofa. 



40 THE BED BAND. 

" Now let us have a talk/' said Kose, as tranquilly as if 
she had last seen her visitor only the evening before. 

" Very well; let us have a talk. I certainly have been 
trying to find you long enough/' retorted Pilevert. 

But it was his last attempt at revolt. 

"And so have I!" sighed Mile, de Charmiere. "For 
the last five years I have left no means untried to discover 
what had become of you. " 

" Bah!" exclaimed the athlete, only partially convinced. 

" Would you like me to prove it?" 

" I should not be sorry to have you do so; for, to tell the 
truth, I never suspected it." 

" You left me in Bordeaux, did you not, with the inten- 
tion of going to Spain:" 

" I had received a splendid offer from the proprietor of 
a circus in Seville, but when I reached Andalusia I found 
that the manager had just failed, and I was obliged to enter 
another troupe that was about starting for San Francisco." 

" And you neglected to write to me. Oh, I am not 
angry on account of your failure to do so; but what could 
I do? I was left alone, without friends or resources. I ap- 
plied to the Spanish consul for information concerning you, 
but could obtain none. Would you like me to show you his 
letters?" 

" It isn't worth while, as I have found you again; and 
you seem to have plenty of money. I sha'n't have to run 
about to fairs any more; and I am glad of it, fori certainly 
have had enough of that sort of life." 

An expression of anger flitted over Kosg's face, but it 
vanished in an instant, and the athlete did not even perceive 
it. 

" I certainly hope that you are going to abandon that 
wretched profession," she replied quickly. "You may 
rest assured that I shall not allow my brother to follow it 
any longer if I can help it." 

" It is certainly very kind in you to say that," exclaimed 



THE RED BAND. 41 

Pilevert, really touched. " I always said that you were not 
as bad as you appeared." 

This compliment did not seem to be at all to Mile, de 
Charmiere's taste, for she was unable to prevent a slight 
knitting of the brows. 

" As that matter is settled," continued the gymnast, " I 
might as well come here to live at once. You are very 
nicely fixed here; and I shall find it much more comfort- 
able than in my wagon. You can certainly find some place 
for me, my boy Alcindor, and my — " 

Eose checked him with a gesture. 

"Excuse me, my dear," she said, laying her hand on 
his brawny shoulder, " but you don't want to ruin me, do 
you?" 

" I am not such a fool!" exclaimed the athlete, naively. 

" Then you must understand that my situation will not 
allow me to give you a home here." 

" And why, Catiche?" inquired the descendant of the 
Crusaders sulkily. 

" Because I have a position to maintain, and because 
Catharine Pilevert's relatives would not be very graciously 
received by the friends of Mademoiselle de Charmiere. I 
can not give you a home here, but I can assist you, and I 
am perfectly willing to do so upon one condition." 

" And what is that?" inquired Pilevert, suspiciously. 

" That you will also assist me." 

" I assist you? Why, you know perfectly well that I 
^aven't a penny." 

" It isn't financial assistance that I need; but your 
shrewdness and intelligence." 

"In that case you can certainly count upon me; and 
you have only to tell me what you want." 

" You shall soon know; but I am first going to give you 
some money to clothe yourself respectably, and hire some 
rooms, for I shall want to see you often; and in that cos- 
tume—" 



42 THE BED BAND. 

" I can't say that I see anything much out of the way in 
my appearance," said Pilevert, glancing down complacently 
at his showy suit, and the massive plated watch-chain that 
dangled across his breast. 

Eose smiled, and stepped to a little rosewood desk, from 
which she extracted a five hundred-franc bank-note. 

The face of the athlete beamed with delight on behold- 
ing this token of sisterly affection. 

" I declare, you are certainly a nice girl, Catiche," he 
exclaimed; " and I feel sure that we shall get along all 
right. This note will help me to start a little business 
affair I am contemplating. " 

"You have a scheme on hand?" asked Eose, suddenly 
becoming attentive. 

" Yes, and a fine one." 

" Can I be of any service to you?" 

Pilevert stroked his beard, as was his habit when in doubt. 

" Oh, if it is a secret, I have no desire to force myself 
into your confidence," added his sister, carelessly. 

The athlete seemed in no haste to reply; but the veins 
around his temples, which stood out like whip-cords, showed 
that he was undergoing a violent mental struggle. 

" Well, to tell the truth, my little Catiche," he said at 
last with an embarrassed air, "when I said that I had a 
scheme on hand, I didn't speak the exact truth. I think I 
am in possession of a valuable secret, that is all. " 

" A secret!" repeated Eose in astonishment. 

"Yes. I know something that — well, one of thosf 
things for which people are willing to pay handsomely." 

And again the athlete paused, as if afraid that he had 
said too much. 

His sister did not take her eyes off his face. She was 
beginning to understand him, and also to comprehend the 
advantage she might perhaps derive from this revelation. 

" Secrets of a certain kind always pay well, in p ar j g » 
she remarked carelessly. 



THE BED BAND. 43 

" Yes; but the trouble is I don't know and can't find 
the persons interested in this. " 

" Are they in Paris?" 

" Yes; but I haven't their address, or rather, I have lost 
it." 

" Listen," said Eose, good-naturedly. " I have no de- 
sire to know your secret; but tell me the name of the per- 
son you want to find." 

" I have, by the merest chance, made the acquaintance 
of a Monsieur de — ' ' 

He paused here, seized by a final misgiving. 

" Monsieur de — what?" demanded Mile, de Oharmiere, 
coldly. 

" Well, do you know a Monsieur de Valnoir?" 

" Valnoir! Did you say Valnoir?" cried Mile, de Char- 
miere. ' 

" You know him, then? Good!" exclaimed Pilevert, 
delighted at this discovery. " If you can give me the ad- 
dress of that Parisian you will do me a great favor, and if 
the affair turns out well, I assure you, upon my word of 
honor as a gentleman, that you shall have a share in the 
profits. " 

" There must be some mistake," said Eose. " I am 
acquainted with a person of that name, but he is not in 
Prance now. " 

" But he is a relative, perhaps." 

" I think not. What is the man's business?" 

" I don't know exactly, but it seems to me that I heard 
he wrote for the papers." 

"lam acquainted with none of those people, and I am 
afraid that your secret will not be worth much to you. 
Journalists are not wealthy, at least, not as a class." 

" Perhaps not, but I shall be able to make this one pay 
handsomely. Ah! if those rascally Prussians had not been 
close upon our heels when I left Saint Germain, the affair 
would have been well under way before this. But they 



44 THE RED BAND. 

won't always be here. Besides, I shall certainly find a way 
to get through their lines one of these days, and then — 

" Take care. You are going to tell me more than you 
wish to," interrupted Eose, smiling. "I know already 
that you met this Monsieur de Valnoir at Saint Germain, 
you see." 

The old ruse of asserting what one does not know m 
order to ascertain what one wishes to know proved success- 
ful, as usual. 

" Oh, I've no desire to conceal the fact. I acted as his 
second in a duel there three days ago," replied Pilevert, 
boldly. 

He had already said enough, for Mile, de Charmiere to 
divine at least a part of the truth. The secret was evi- 
dently connected with her lover's visit to Saint Germain, 
and she was already acquainted with the sad result of this 
visit, though not with the details. 

That her brother had acted as Valnoir's second, she did 
not believe for an instant; but she did feel sure that there 
was some mystery connected with the affair. Still, anxious 
as she was to solve it, she felt that it would not be prudent 
to insist too much; besides, she fully realized the necessity 
of terminating the interview as soon as possible. Valnoir 
might become tired of staying in the boudoir; besides, such 
close proximity was fraught with danger. Z.^^ 

" Well, I will give you the address of a gentleman who 
can certainly be of great service to you in this matter," she 
remarked. " Call at the house of Monsieur Frapillon, No. 
97 Rue Cadet, and tell him I sent you. You will find him 
there every day until noon. Tell him your story, and he 
will certainly find the person of whom you are in search." 

"And he will also tell me all you say to him/' added 
the prudent Eose, mentally. 

" Yes, but how much will he charge me for doing it?" 
inquired Pilevert, who was naturally stingy. 

"Nothing. I hire him by the year to attend to mv 

my 



THE BED BAND. 45 

business, and he will make no extra charge for yours. 
Now, my dear Antoine, we must part. Call and see mo 
again as soon as you are suitably lodged and clothed. I 
shall have need of you, and if this enterprise of yours does 
not succeed, I have another to propose to you. " 

Pilevert would have been glad to prolong the conversa- 
tion, but the five hundred-franc note had made him more 
amenable to reason than usual. 

" You are right, Catiche," he said. " Alcindor must 
be getting tired of waiting for me; besides, it is time for 
my vermouth, and that hour you know is sacred. But I 
must kiss you before I go." 

Mile, de Charmiere would gladly have dispensed with 
this mark of fraternal tenderness; but she resigned herself 
to it, in the hope of shortening the farewell; and she was 
awaiting the salute with upturned forehead and downcast 
eyes, when a slight sound made her turn her head. 

Antoine did not have time to imprint a kiss upon her 
smooth brow, however, for his sister bounded from him like 
a panther. 

A man had just entered the room and was advancing to- 
ward the sofa with an oblique and peculiar step. 

" Fanfine," cried Mile, de Charmiere, in an irritated 
voice, " I told you, it seems to me, that I was at home to 
no one. " 

" Except me, as I am to dine with you to-day/' re- 
marked the new-comer. 

"I had quite forgotten it — Monsieur Taupier — I be- 
lieve," said Eose, in a tone that would have put any one 
except the deformed journalist to immediate flight. 

" But I have not," replied that cynical personage, " for 
Valnoir tells me one dines remarkably well at your 
house." 

The name Taupier had just uttered, produced very much 
the effect of a thunder-bolt. Eose, in the first moment of 
anger, had not realized all the possible consequences of this 



40 



THE RED BAND. 



unexpected intrusion, but she was now keenly alive to the 
imminence of the danger that had just arisen. On the 
other hand, the athlete had pricked up his ears on hearing 
Valnoir's name, and had risen to his feet more from curi- 
osity than politeness. 

" Why! it is the man we met in the forest of Saint Ger- 
main I" exclaimed the hunchback, recognizing him in- 
stantly. 

The astonishment was mutual. Pile vert could hardly 
believe his eyes. He was beginning to understand that his 
sister had deceived him, and to wonder how he could get 
even with her. But it was at such critical moments as this 
that the clearness and decision of Mile, de Charmiere's 
judgment was most apparent. 

" As you are already acquainted/' she remarked tran- 
quilly, "it is not necessary for me to introduce you to this 
gentleman who has called to bring me news of my brother." 

As she spoke, an imperious glance at Pilevert warned 
him to be silent. 

" The gentleman has just arrived from Spain," Con- 
tinued Rose, without removing her clear, cold eyes from 
the athlete's face. 

" From Spain:" repeated Taupier. " It must have 
been by the way of Normandy, then, for he had just left 
Poissy when we met him in the forest of Saint Germain." 

" Well, all roads lead to Rome, do they not?" retorted 
the athlete. 

Even his dull intellect, under the spirited instruction of 
Mile, de Charmiere, had finally comprehended that circum- 
stances made an offensive and defensive alliance necessary 
between him and his sister; at least, for the present. 

"You are right, citizen," replied Taupier. "Your 
affairs do not concern me, though you were kind enough to 
interest yourself in ours. By the way, it must have been 
your boy that I met in the square below. I must say I like 
him. He has a way of standing apparently lost in thought 



THE RED BAND. 47 

that indicates a fondness for social philosophy. What are 
his political opinions?" 

" I never troubled myself to inquire/* growled his 
master. 

" What strange indifference !" exclaimed Taupier. 
'" But you, my dear fellow-citizen, what do you, yourself, 
think of the future of modern society? I am almost cer- 
tain that you are a positivist." 

Then, seeing that the bewildered gymnast was utterly at 
a loss for a reply, the imperturbable journalist added— 

" Oh, well, citizen, you are not obliged to answer me. 
We are not in a political club-room." 

As he spoke, he installed himself comfortably in an arm- 
chair without waiting for any invitation. 

For several minutes Mile, de Charmiere had been plan- 
ning to release Valnoir, and above all to prepare him for 
an inevitable meeting, for now that Pile vert's suspicions 
were aroused, it was not at all likely that he would consent 
to depart without seeing the man of whom he was in 
search; and being ignorant of the fact that Taupier was in 
any way connected with her brother's secret, she saw no 
danger in leaving them alone together. 

' ' You will excuse me for a moment, I am sure, " she 
said, turning to the athlete. ' ' I have some orders to give, 
but I trust that you will do me the favor to remain and 
take dinner with me and with two of my friends." 

" I certainly shouldn't think of refusing if it were not 
for the fact that Alcindor must still be waiting for me in 
the square below," replied Pilevert, delighted at the pros- 
pect of securing a good meal free of cost. 

" I will have him sent for," said Mile, de Charmiere 
graciously. Then, as she passed her brother on her way to 
the door, she whispered: " Eemain. To-morrow I will 
explain all," and having murmured these words, intended 
to prevent any attempt at revolt, she disappeared with the 
lightness of a bird. 



48 THE BED BAttfi. 

Taupier rubbed his hands, and prepared himself for a 
little bout with the athlete, for to harass and torment men 
who could crush him with a single blow of their fists was 
a favorite pastime with him; but he would have been less 
jubilant had he suspected that this brawny fellow had wit- 
nessed all his maneuvers in the clearing on the morning of 
the duel. 

" Ah, well, my worthy friend/' he began, swaying him- 
self to and fro in his seat, after the fashion of a monkey, 
" how did you get on with your funeral the other day? 
Did you succeed in transporting the illustrious dead to the 
tomb of his ancestors?" 

The athlete did not answer this heartless speech. He 
had drawn a small round object from his pocket, and 
seemed to be completely absorbed in the operation of twirl- 
ing it slowly between his thumb and forefinger. 

" So you practice even while you are in company," cried 
Taupier, jeeringly. " Is that a juggler's ball you have 
there?" 

" No/' answered Pilevert, looking him full in the face. 
"It is a bullet." 

" A bullet," repeated Taupier, in the same mocking 
tone. " Oh, I see. We are in a state of siege, and pa- 
triots feel it their duty to play only with lead. But you are 
behind the times, old fellow. It is not conical in shape, 
and round balls have gone quite out of date now." 

"It is a bullet, all the same," replied the athlete, con- 
tinuing his occupation; " and I have an idea that it would 
have killed a man had it not been stopped on the way. " 

This time the allusion was too plain not to be under- 
stood. 

Taupier gave a sudden start, so great was his surprise. 
Could it be that this man had seen him preparing the mur- 
der in which Valnoir had acted the part of an unconscious 
accomplice? It was a question that must be decided at 
once. 



TlffE RED BAND. 49 

" You picked it up in the forest of Saint Germain, per- 
haps?" he remarked, with wonderful assurance. 

" Possibly," replied Pile vert, coolly. 

" And you perhaps intend to have it mounted in a ring 
as a present for your wife." 

" No; I intend to sell it, if I can get my price for it," 
replied Pilevert, forgetting that his sister had recommended 
prudence. 

" Money is much more of a rarity than lead in these 
days, however. ■" 

" It is sometimes found at the foot of giant oak-trees, 
nevertheless," retorted the athlete. 

This time Valnoir's friend could not conceal a nervous 
contraction of the facial muscles. 

" He saw the whole thing, and he is much shrewder 
than I supposed," he thought, rising to conceal his embar- 
rassment. 

In fact, his consternation was so great that he was en- 
deavoring to devise some pretext for beating a retreat, 
when Mile, de Charmiere's return extricated him from his 
dilemma. The lady had been absent only a few moments, 
hut even in that short time she had managed not only to 
change her dress, but to make her lover believe exactly 
what she wanted him to believe. 

During her ten minutes' conversation with Valnoir, she 
had satisfied herself that her prisoner in the boudoir had 
not the slightest suspicion that he was at Pilevert's mercy, 
and a few caresses and a half dozen falsehoods had sufficed 
to convert him to the belief that the visitor was the bearer 
of a message to the noble Mile, de Charmiere from an 
exiled brother in Spain. She had even prevented any pos- 
sibility of an unpleasant surprise by telling him that a 
strange chance had made this messenger an unseen witness 
of the duel at Saint Germain, and that their friend Tau- 
pier had just met and recognized him. 

These statements being accepted with all the blind confi- 



50 THE RED BAND. 

dence of a lover, it was not very difficult to persuade the 
journalist to dine in the company of the athlete and his 
pupil, so he followed his enchantress into the drawing- 
room, and there was not even the slightest trace of annoy- 
ance or embarrassment in the greeting he gave the 
strangers. Indeed, he even carried his condescension so 
far as to offer his hand to the athlete. 

Taupier, unspeakably relieved by this diversion, began 
to breathe more freely, and to revolve in his mind sundry 
plans for the undoing of the dangerous enemy who had just 
given him. such an unpleasant surprise. 

The speedy entrance of Alcindor furnished another wel- 
come diversion. This singular creature entered Mile, de 
Charmiere's gilded drawing-room with as much ease of 
manner as if he had trodden upon Aubusson carpets all his 
life. 

His colorless face shone with serene satisfaction, and he 
saluted the company with a general bow that was utterly 
devoid of grace, though not of a certain majesty. The 
savant shone out so plainly, even from under this grotesque 
exterior, that Valnoir instantly saw a means of enlivening 
the dinner hour, and he made a sign to Taupier who un- 
derstood his meaning perfectly, and who seized with joy 
upon an opportunity to overcome the difficulties of the 
situation. 

"Madame is served!" announced Fanfine, and Mile, de 
Charmiere led the way to the table without any ceremony, 
to the great disappointment of Alcindor, who, to show his 
good manners, had already risen to offer his arm to his 
hostess. 

The round table was laid in a room hung with Cordova 
leather, and adorned with sideboards loaded with handsome 
silver and rare china. The chairs were comfortable the 
napery dazzling in whiteness, and beside each plate stood a 
little army of wine-glasses. 

Rose placed Pilevert on her right, and Alcindor at her 



THE iiED BAND* 51 

left, and the first course was a silent one. Hose bestowed 
her attention almost exclusively upon her brother's mes- 
senger, and Valnoir being thus left to his own devices, 
finally set to work to draw out Alcindor. 

"lam sure you must have literary aspirations, sir," he 
said to him point-blank. 

" Oh, my dreams!" sighed Alcindor, tragically, helping 
himself to still another glass of wine, as he spoke. 

" So here we have still another poet!" cried Taupier. 

" Yes, but my dreams and illusions have fled, for I am 
twenty-six, and no one has yet understood or appreciated 
me," cried Alcindor, who was already beginning to feel 
the effect of the wine. 

" Ah, well, here is an opportunity to make yourself un- 
derstood, dear Monsieur Alcindor. Explain your theory, 
for a man with hair like yours always has a theory. " 

" You will have it so?" said Alcindor, in a tragic tone. 
" Ah, well, so be it. I will again expose myself to the 
jibes of the world, for you are all worldlings, while I am 
only a poor follower of the Muses. " 

Urged on by an encouraging gesture from both the jour- 
nalists, Alcindor resumed — 

" I must begin by telling you the history of my 
life, for the history of my life is the history of my convic- 
tions." 

" He talks Well," remarked Taupier in a loud aside. 

" Know, then, that I am of Grecian origin/' continued 
the elated orator, " as my name, Alcindor Panaris, indi- 
cates; but I wa3 born at Pontoise, where my parents gave 
me an excellent education. At the age of twenty I had 
been refused admission to the Naval School, the Poly- 
technic, the Normal School, and even to the Military 
School at Saint Cyr, to which I endeavored to gain an en- 
trance in spite of my abhorrence of standing armies." 

" If you continue to relate your misfortunes, my dear 
Alcindor," interrupted Taupier, "you will certainly make 



52 THE RED BAND. 

madame cry, and cast a gloom over the entire party. 
Explain your theory to us without further preamble. " 

"What for?" growled the orator, evidently incensed at 
the interruption. 

" Why, so that we may be able to adopt it, oh, great mis- 
understood! Behold in us two wielders of the pen, who 
are still seeking the truth, and open new horizons to us/' 

"lama fusionist!" said Alcindor, with much the same 
air with which a contemporary of Sylla would have said: 
" I am a Eoman citizen.'' 

" What religion is that?" inquired Valnoir, gravely. 

" The religion of the future," exclaimed the youth, with 
an inspired air, pouring the remains of a bottle of Madeira 
into his champagne glass. " I advocate the fusion of 
everything — religions, opinions, nationalities — " 

" And wines," added Rose, smiling. 

" No more kings, no more wealth, no more wars. Let 
the man who produces consume, and the earth be covered 
with harvests that ripen upon the sites of demolished 
palaces." 

" Musset says all this in two lines," interrupted Val- 
noir.— 

"Et le globe rase, sans barbeni chevcux 
Comme un grand potiron roulera dan les cieux." 

" I see that you entirely fail to understand me," growled 
the fusionist. " Men of letters are the greatest enemies of 
the humanitarian philosophy. I shall exclude them from 
the society I intend to found." 

" So you are anxious to found a society?" inquired 
Taupier. 

" And may I venture to inquire the object of this society 
and the proposed means of establishing it?" added Valnoir, 
with the utmost gravity. 

" I have just told you that the object is the fusion of 
everything; the means is the abolition of everything." 



THE RED BAND. 53 

"Bravo! that's the talk. That suits me!" cried Tau- 
pier, clapping his hands enthusiastically. " Look here, 
Alcindor," he continued, with a sudden change of tone, 
" are you capable of addressing a political assembly?" 

" In six languages, and upon any topic you may select," 
replied the philosopher of the future, unhesitatingly. 

" And are you capable of writing a creditable article?" 

"Ten a day, if you wish. Before making an engage- 
ment with my present employer, I was the sole editor of 
the ' Union/ a fusionist organ of which only eight numbers 
had appeared when it was suppressed." 

" Young man, your future is in your own hands. 
Would you like to enter into an engagement with the editor 
of the ' Serpenteau '?" 

" Yes, if that paper will advocate my principles," re- 
plied Alcindor with all the firmness of an apostle. 

" Are you mad?" whispered "Valnoir, nudging the 
hunchback. 

" Let me alone; I know what I am doing." 

Mile, de Oharmiere had listened to tins conversation very 
attentively, though she was to all appearance busily en- 
gaged with a superb cluster of hot-house grapes, for the 
dessert had been placed upon the table. 

" Now let us decide upon a name for our society," re- 
marked the hunchback. 

" That is needless. I have one, and I shall not change 
it," said Alcindor firmly. 

" Let us hear the name," said Eose, smiling. 

" The society shall be known as the ' Society of the Moon 
with the Teeth,' " announced the youth majestically. 

" He is mad," muttered Valnoir. 

" Let the orator speak!" cried Taupier, who seemed to 
be deeply impressed by the eccentric youth's discourse. 
And he certainly had reason to be; for since Alcindor had 
given a free rein to his eloquence, he appeared positively 
transfigured. His large eyes seemed to be starting from 



54 THE RED BAND. 

their sockets; his yellow hair waved over his slender shoul- 
ders, and his long arms beat the air wildly. 

" Citizens/' he began, with unruffled seriousness, " the 
name I think of giving to our society makes you smile. I 
know the unfortunate influence of the contemporary press. 
You are journalists, but journalists of a degenerate age, 
and you scoff at all you do not understand. To take the 
moon by the teeth is an expression that has been used from 
time immemorial to indicate the impossible. The impossi- 
ble! I would expunge that obsolete word from the language 
of the future, for the emancipated proletary will seize with 
the teeth the moon of universal happiness." 

On hearing this bold figure of speech, Valnoir burst into 
a hearty laugh; and Eose could hardly restrain her inclina- 
tion to do the same. Pilevert, reduced to silence by his 
last bottle of wine, was no longer able to defend his pupil. 
The hunchback was the only person who showed any en- 
thusiasm. 

"Yours is a great mind!" he cried, stretching out his 
arms as if to embrace the orator. " The ' Society of the 
Moon ' with the Teeth is founded, and the ' Serpenteau ' is 
its official organ. " 

" You have discovered a fine way to increase its circula- 
tion," sneered Valnoir, with a shrug of the shoulders. 

" Will you be kind enough to listen to me and answer 
me?" asked Taupier, in the firm tone of a man sure of his 
ground. " Do you or do you not believe in the power of 
words in this country?" 

" I am paid for that. If I wrote like everybody else my 
paper would not find three hundred purchasers." 

" Well, do you or do you not believe that mystery has a 
great fascination for the vulgar herd. Do you not know 
that with a few meaningless words and oaths upon poniards 
one can form an army of enthusiastic, even desperate, men 
capable of overturning any government under the sun?" 

" That is a conceded fact, I believe." 



THE RED BAND. 00 

" Very well. Then you will unite with us in founding 
the ' Moon with the Teeth,' will you not?" 

" For what object, pray?" 

" In order that you may be president of the republic in 
six months, simplicity!" 

" Pardon me, but I desire neither president nor repub- 
lic," interrupted Alcindor. 

" Still, let me speak in my turn," continued the hunch- 
back. " Our friend Valnoir has talent and readers, but he 
lacks the power to draw the masses. Alcindor possesses 
this power, but has no opportunity to exercise it. One 
supplies what the other lacks; their union will make a per- 
fect and irresistible whole, and the ' Serpenteau ' will cau- 
tiously promulgate the principles of a doctrine which will 
form an army for the election, and, if need be, for the bar- 
ricades; and we will rule Paris while waiting until the time 
comes for us to govern the universe/' 

" Why not?" exclaimed Mile, de Charmiere, who had 
not lost a word of the hunchback's arguments. 

And the question was accompanied with a glance well 
calculated to arouse the lurking demons of covetousness and 
ambition in Valnoir's breast. To Eose, in politics, as in 
love, nothing was impossible, and she saw a chance of per- 
sonal aggrandizement through the great future that was in 
store for her lover. 

" Why not?" she exclaimed,. with an intoxicating glance 
at Valnoir. " To elevate one's self by serving the cause of 
suffering humanity is certainly a very laudable ambition. " 

" All that is absurd," retorted the editor-in-chief of the 
"Serpenteau." "How can you ask me to sustain in my 
paper theories which no one will understand; nor I, myself, 
for that matter." 

" Oh, you needn't trouble yourself, I'll attend to all 
that," replied the hunchback. " At all events, you will 
not try to prevent us from organizing our society, I am 
sure. Our plans arc all made. The association will be 



56 THE BED BAND. 

subdivided into sections. There will be a board of directors, 
of which you can be a member if you choose; and we will 
have emblems and an initiation ceremony." 

■" Admirable! admirable!" exclaimed the delighted origi- 
nator of the scheme. 

" But how about the money?" inquired Valnoir, dryly. 

" Each lover of the moon — for the members of the 
society will be known as lovers of the moon — will be as- 
sessed two sous a week; and we shall have millions of 
members before three months have elapsed. " 

" I have a treasurer to propose to you/' added Mile, de 
Charmiere. 

" Who is it?" inquired the hunchback, who would gladly 
have reserved that office for himself. 

" Frapillon, my man of business, "replied Rose, prompt- 
ly. " He is prudence personified. He loves the people, 
and he is honest." 

"And shrewd, into the bargain," murmured Valnoir, 
beginning to waver. " He manages my business, too; and 
if he thinks the plan feasible, "I have no farther objections 
to offer." 

"But I have one," growled Pilevert, whom the guests 
had supposed engrossed in his struggle with Rhine wine. 

" So you are listening, old Hercules," said Taupier, paus- 
ing to gaze admiringly at this veteran who was capable of 
listening to a conversation after emptying his seventh bottle. 

" Yes, I am listening; but I don't understand you, and 
I want to know what you are plotting," replied Rose's 
brother, giving the table a violent blow with his clinched 
fist. " I care nothing about the moon, or the ' Serpen- 
teau;' but you spoke of Frapillon just now, and I want 
Frapillon myself. I have some information to ask of 
him." 

" The wretch is drunk, and he is going to tell all he 
knows," thought Rose in sudden terror. 

" Gentlemen," she said aloud, " coffee is awaiting us in 



THE BED BAND. 57 

the drawing-room; and I have some excellent cigars to offer 
you." 

" I want to see Frapillon, I tell you/' continued Pile- 
vert, with the obstinacy peculiar to drunken men. 

" You shall see him — you shall see him at the office of 
the journal upon whose staff I offer you, too, a position, at a 
salary of ten francs a day," said the hunchback, soothingly. 

" Ah, yes," murmured the athlete, " a position —with a 
salary of ten francs a day — and tobacco. But I don't want 
it. I have something better in view; besides, I can't leave 
Regina." 

" And who is Regina, my gallant warrior? The savage 
beauty we met in the forest of Saint Germain?" 

" Regina is my pupil," retorted Pilevert, " and the first 
who dares to say aught against her — " 

" It is stifling here," remarked Valnoir, rising abruptly; 
and Mile, de Oharmiere, thankful for the interruption, 
hastily followed his example and led the way to the draw- 
ing-room. Coffee had been prepared by the invaluable 
Fanfine; and the hunchback, who thoroughly appreciated 
this important adjunct to a good dinner, established him- 
self near a small table covered with liqueurs and cordials. 
Alcindor and his master,, too, were lured to the same spot 
by the gracious offer of a cup of smoking Mocha. Valnoir, 
alone, stepped out upon the balcony, in the hope of driving 
away the unpleasant memories evoked by the hunchback. 

Darkness had gathered over the earth some time before, 
and the sky was glittering with stars. Mile, de Charmiere's 
lover had lighted a cigar, and was gazing down absently 
into the square below when a strange sight suddenly at- 
tracted his attention. In the corner of the square next to 
Mile, de Charmiere's house quite a large crowd had assem- 
bled, and a confused sound of jeers and laughter ascended 
to the balcony upon which Valnoir was standing; and 
though he could not understand the cause of the commo- 
tion, he could plainly distinguish a woman's form in the 



58 THE KED BAND. 

center of the noisy throng. It seemed to him, too, that 
this woman was trying to force her way through the crowd; 
but in a moment she seated herself on a bench, and Val- 
noir, seeing her bury her face in her hands, very naturally 
concluded that she was weeping. 

The heart of the editor-in-chief of the " Serpen teau " 
had not yet become invulnerable to feelings of pity; be- 
sides, the company of the two traveling artists was becom- 
ing distasteful to him, and he decided that he would go and 
ascertain the cause of the disturbance. 

" Your cigars are execrable, my dear,''' he remarked to 
Rose, as he re-entered the drawing-room. " These brands 
are always worthless, and I am going out to purchase 
some." 

At any other time Eose would have asked herself what 
caprice had prompted this move on the part of her lover, 
but just now she was having all she could do to watch her 
brother. She even felt the necessity of breaking up the 
party as soon as possible, so she replied — 

' ' Do so, my dear, and if you should happen to see a 
barouche or a landau in the square, engage it, for I should 
like to take a drive through the Champs Elysees and get a 
breath of fresh air. " 

" Nothing would suit me better, for I have a frightful 
headache," answered Valnoir, picking up his hat. 

"When he reached the square, however, he found that he 
had troubled himself unnecessarily, for the crowd had dis- 
persed, and on questioning a policeman who was standing 
near, he learned that a throng of loafers had gathered 
around a strangely dressed but inoffensive woman. 

" I drove them away, and she just walked off in the 
direction of the Madeleine; but she'll be lucky if she escapes 
further annoyance in that fantastic costume," said the 
placid representative of municipal authority; and Valnoir, 
who took very little interest in these details, sauntered 
slowly on without thinking any more about the matter. 



THE BED BAND. 50 



CHAPTER III. 

The evening was magnificent, and in the pale light of 
the stars the long colonnade of the Madeleine assumed 
colossal proportions. 

A profound silence reigned around the building, and the 
chairs on the esplanade were empty. Valnoir walked slow- 
ly past it without meeting any one, but just as he turned 
the corner of the church, in order to make the tour of the 
square, he suddenly found himself face to face with a 
woman who was approaching from the opposite direction. 
The meeting was so unexpected that he nearly ran against 
her, and, on glancing up as he hastily recoiled, he could not 
repress an exclamation of surprise, for by the light of a 
neighboring street-lamp he recognized the young girl he 
had seen in the forest at Saint Germain. 

But the glimpse he had of the strange creature was even 
more brief this time than in the forest, for she turned 
almost instantly and hastily retraced her steps. Still, she 
did not turn so quickly that Valnoir had not time to notice 
her strange costume, though it was now partially concealed 
by a long and dark cloak; but as she turned to flee, one end 
of the cloak flew back, revealing a short scarlet frock and a 
pair of bare arms, and satisfying the journalist beyond a 
doubt that this was the strange creature he had seen kneel- 
ing beside M. de Saint Senier-'s lifeless body. 

Impelled by some vague instinct, Mile, de Charmiore's 
lover quickened his pace with the intention of following the 
young girl, but when he reached the corner of the square 
he perceived that she had already reached the terrace and 
was now hastening in the direction of the Eue Royale. 

He followed the same route, taking care to keep some 
distance from the stranger, so as not to attract her atten- 



60 THE BED BAND. 

tion. She seemed, however, to have entirely forgotten her 
meeting with Valnoir, for she did not turn to look behind 
her, but hastened toward the Place de la Concorde with a 
firm but rapid tread. 

"It was certainly around her that the crowd gathered 
under Eose's window/' thought Valnoir, "but what the 
deuce could have taken her there?" 

But the harder he endeavored to find a plausible answer 
to this question, the more hopeless the attempt appeared. 
The only sure means of satisfying himself on this point was 
to stop the young woman and ask an explanation; but Val- 
noir did not care to show himself until he became a little 
better acquainted with the object of this strange prome- 
nade. 

He had just reached the corner of an alley, and the girl 
was only about twenty yards in advance of him, when a 
man leaped from behind a clumj) of shrubbery into the 
road, and a neighboring street-lamp lighted the spot suffi- 
ciently for Valnoir to catch the gleam of a musket, and see 
the scoundrel seize the young girl. 

Valnoir was no coward, and though he might have hesi- 
tated to expose himself to danger for the sake of such a sus- 
picious-looking stranger if he had had time for reflection, 
he yielded to his first impulse and saw only a pretty girl 
attacked by an outlaw. 

" Beware, scoundrel!" he cried, running straight toward 
the man, and in another instant he was upon him and had 
seized him by the throat. 

" Let me alone," yelled the wretch, dropping his gun. 

With great presence of mind Valnoir picked up the 
weapon and aimed it at the man, shouting — 

" Leave, or I'll blow your brains out!" 

" But it is I who ought to tell you to leave," replied a 
voice husky with liquor. 

The girl had taken advantage of her assailant's discom- 
fiture to release herself from his hold, and was now leaning 



THE BED BAHD. 61 

against a tree for support. By this time ValnOir had dis'- 
covered with whom he had to deal. The assailant was no 
other than a member of the National Guard, so grossly in- 
toxicated as to be scarcely able to stand alone. 

" Why did you molest this girl?" demanded Vain oil', 
secretly rejoiced to find himself in the presence of no more 
formidable enemy. 

" I wasn't molesting her. I was arresting her. " 

" And what right have you to arrest her?" 

" I have orders to arrest everybody, when I'm on guard. 
What is the use of having a revolution if a member of tho 
322d can't take a woman to the station-house when ho 
pleases?" 

As he gave vent to this strange theory, the soldier seized 
the musket, and endeavored to wrest it from the grasp of 
Valnoir, who thought it high time to end the struggle. 
With a vigorous blow of his fist, he sent the defender of law 
and order reeling into the gutter> and then sprung to the 
young girl's side. She had not yet entirely recovered from 
her fright, but she had strength to extend her hand to her 
deliverer, who led her to the quay, where he made her seat 
herself upon a bench. Here, placing his gun on the 
ground beside him, he drew from his pocket a bottle of 
smelling-salts, and was about to apply it to the young girl's 
nostrils when she hastily sprung up and recoiled a step or 
two from him. 

" What is the matter, mademoiselle?" inquired Valnoir, 
greatly astonished. 

He tried to take her hand, but she repulsed him with a 
gesture expressive of both horror and loathing. 

Mile, de Charmiere's lover was not in the habit of in- 
spiring such openly expressed aversion, and after the first 
moment of surprise he experienced a feeling of anger and 
annoyance which he could not entirely conceal. 

" You have a strange way of thanking persons who ren* 
der you a service," he said, dryly. " Do you know I have 



$% THE BED BAND. 

a greatjnind to surrender you to the tender mercies of that 
drunken fool who is yelling and cursing over there?" 

The girl did not reply in words, but she threw back her 
head proudly, and gave him a look that said plainly: 
"Do it if you dare." 

Touched with remorse, Valnoir immediately attempted 
to apologize for his rudeness. 

" I did very wrong to speak to you in that way, made- 
moiselle," he said, gently. " I can see that I have 
wounded you, and I beg your pardon; but why do you treat 
me in this way?" 

The anger that had blazed in the dark eyes a moment 
before died away, but that was all. 

" I am not exactly a stranger to you," continued Val- 
noir. " I met you once before under very deplorable cir- 
cumstances, and I know your name. You are called 
Regina." 

The girl turned as if about to leave him. 

" Why do you refuse to answer me?" insisted Valnoir, 
who did not understand the cause of this strange silence. 

" I really believe she is dumb," muttered Valnoir, step- 
ping toward her, but he had scarcely done so when the girl 
made an imperious gesture that said as plainly as any 
words: " Leave me," and then turned and walked away. 

" This is becoming curious," muttered Valnoir, in 
astonishment, for though the athlete had mentioned the 
fact that his pupil was deaf and dumb to Podensac, neither 
the editor of the " Serpenteau " nor his friend Taupier had 
overheard the remark. 

Resolved to solve the mystery, if possible, Valnoir has- 
tened after Regina, and touching her lightly on the 
shoulder, said — 

"Mademoiselle, I am not sure that you can hear me, 
but I warn you that, in spite of your very evident desire to 
get rid of me, I am determined to see you safely home. I 
have no desire to offend you, but I can not leave you to 



THE HEX) BAND. 63 

roam about these deserted quays alone at this hour of the 
night, so I shall accompany you until you reach a place of 
safety." 

Regina had paused, and was now looking at him as if she 
was following the movements of his lips. 

" I would also call your attention to the fact that if you 
desire to keep the object of your moonlight promenade a 
secret, you are making a great mistake. Wherever you 
attempt to go in this costume, especially in times like 
these, you are sure to be arrested, and whether you fall into 
the hands of a patrol or a policeman, your secret will be in 
imminent danger in either case." 

The girl made a gesture that the would-be protector took 
for one of assent, and began to walk rapidly down the quay. 
Vainoir followed her closely, but she never once paused to 
speak or to glance behind her, and her movements were so 
rapid that Vainoir had considerable difficulty in keeping 
up with her. 

The Quai de Billy and the Trocadero were already 
passed, at an ever increasing rate of speed, when Vainoir 
made one more attempt to soften the heart of the obdurate 
fair one. 

" Eegina, my dear child, pause, I entreat you," he said, 
earnestly. " This street is deserted, and it leads only to 
the city walls, the gates of which have been closed ever 
since the beginning of the siege. You--are evidently try- 
ing to tire me out, but you will not succeed. Eetrace your 
steps with me, and I promise you, upon my word of honor, 
to place you in the hands of your tutor, Pilevert." 

Regina did not seem to hear him. Her features ex- 
pressed only a sort of mental exaltation. One would have 
supposed her a somnambulist. 

Passy was left behind them, then that portion of Auteuil 
that adjoins the Pont de Grenelle. In a few moments 
they would reach the Porte du Point du Jour. 

A cold anger born of weariness, perhaps, as much as of 



64 THE red band. 

wounded pride, had taken possession of Valnoir 's heart, 
aud this was accompanied by a very natural aversion to be- 
ing compelled to explain his singular escapade to the 
National Guards on duty on the ramparts. 

" You seem resolved not to listen to me," he cried * 
angrily. " Very well, if you are determined to be arrested, 
I will arrest you myself." 

As he spoke, he seized Regina almost roughly by the arm. 

The young girl freed herself with a sudden bound, and 
ran with all her might into a narrow street or lane to the 
left. 

Valnoir started in pursuit of her, but he was fatigued, 
and the fugitive reached the quay several seconds before he 
did. The colossal arches of the railway viaduct towered up 
in front of them, and the shore at this point was lined with 
boats of every shape and size. 

" Good God! she is going to throw herself into the 
river!" cried Valnoir, seeing her spring upon one of these 
boats. 

He followed her from craft to craft, and overtook her 
just as she reached the one furthest from the shore, but 
before he could seize her long flowing mantle Eegina had 
sprung into the Seine. 

Valnoir was so excited that he was on the point of jump- 
ing into the water after the fugitive; but an instant's re- 
flection made him hesitate, and this hesitation lasted at 
least a minute. 

Regina's leap into the water had made very little noise; 
besides, the quay seemed to be deserted, so he could not 
reasonably hope for any assistance in rescuing the girl. 
While engaged in these reflections, he thought he saw the 
body of the young girl reappear upon the surface of the 
water a few yards from the boat. Remorse seized him, 
and the idea of rowing to the aid of the drowning girl sud- 
denly occurred to him, and he was about to untie the boat 
upon which he was standing when he discovered that this 



THE BED BAND. (J5 

had already been done. The shock produced by two per- 
sons leaping almost simultaneously into the frail cockle 
shell had broken the rope by which it was moored, and it 
was drifting slowly down the river. 

" So much the better! I shall reach her all the 
sooner," thought Valnoir. 

A quick glance had shown him a dark object still float- 
ing on the water. 

It was not too late. 

Unfortunately, upon feeling around in the bottom of the 
boat, he was unable to discover anything in the shape of an 
oar. Springing up hastily, he endeavored to seize some of 
the neighboring boats, but they were already too far away, 
for though the current is not strong near the shore, Val- 
noir's impetuous movements had already sent the light 
skiff well out into the stream. 

The viaduct towered up threateningly before him, and he 
began to feel considerable anxiety in regard to the conse- 
quences of his adventure, for he had no means of direct- 
ing the course of the boat which was drifting slowly but 
surely toward the center arch. He had some hope, how- 
ever, of being able to seize one of the iron rings riveted to 
the piles, and he prepared to avail himself of this means of 
salvation. The bridge cast a long shadow on the Seine, 
and Eegina's body was no longer visible, but supposing the 
poor girl was drowned, Valnoir was now engrossed entirely 
by plans for his own preservation. 

The nearer the boat approached the viaduct, the stronger 
the current became, and the skiff was swept swiftly on to- 
ward the central arch. As he neared it, Valnoir steadied 
himself by holding on to the gunwale with one hand, 
while with the other he tried to discover some ring im- 
bedded in the masonry, but the rings were either much 
higher or much lower, for they escaped him. 

In a few seconds the arch was safely traversed, and Val- 
noir, exhausted by his fruitless efforts, was about to throw 



QG THE RED BAND. 

himself down in the bottom of the boat, when he perceived 
a black mass that apparently obstructed the river a little 
further on, and his hopes revived on recollecting that 
several rows of piles had recently been placed across the 
river to prevent any nautical attempts. oh the part of the 
Prussians. 

But he had forgotten some of the necessities of defense. 
To facilitate the movements of the gun-boats and floating 
batteries an opening had been left in the middle of the 
barrier, and unfortunately the boat was drifting straight 
toward that opening. If its occupant had had a pole of 
any kind in his possession, he would have had some chance 
of arresting the progress of his skiff, but even the rudder 
had been removed from it. 

Just as he was passing through the opening, he experi- 
enced no little emotion on perceiving a dark object floating 
upon the water close by the boat, and on seizing it, he 
found that it was Eegina's mantle. 

He recognized it instantly, and threw it down into the 
bottom of the boat, supposing that this was the last remain- 
ing vestige of the young girl. He did not even ask him- 
self what could have become of the body, for his own peril 
was too great to allow him much opportunity for reflec- 
tion, especially as the current was bearing him slowly but 
surely toward much more serious danger, for he had 
already passed the outer line of fortifications, and the 
Prussians having intrenched themselves on the left bank 
of the Seine, it was by no means improbable that he would 
soon find himself between two fires. He was even sur- 
prised that he had traversed the space between the viaduct 
and the fortifications without accident. 

The sharp whistle of a bullet rushing through the air 
aroused him from these reflections, and the ball struck the 
water a few yards from the boat. He had been fired at 
from the bastion of the Point dn, Jour, which be had just 



THE RED BAND. 67 

Valnoir was a brave man in the ordinary sense of the 
word, that is to say, he would not have refused to fight 
with any person who insulted him, but he had not suffi- 
cient control of his nerves hot to dodge a bullet when no 
one was looking at him. 

" The idea" Of" calling out to them that he was a Frenchman 
occurred to him, but he was not sure that he would be able 
to make himself understood, and his cries might bring 
down a general discharge of musketry upon him, so he 
finally decided that he had better allow himself to drift on 
a little further, and trust to luck. 

Unfortunately, the shot from the bastion had aroused the 
sharp-shooters stationed along the banks, and a brisk 
fusillade began. 

The peril was not immediate, for the firing seemed to be 
a little further down the river, but in a few moments the 
boat would find itself in a very dangerous position. 

Valnoir was sitting in the stern, gazing anxiously around 
him, when he fancied he distinguished to the right, a short 
distance ahead of him, a swimmer who seemed to be trying 
to reach the French lines. 

This time he could restrain himself no longer, but cried, 
" Help, help!" with all his might. 

But either because these cries were not heard, or because 
he had his reasons for not heeding the entreaty, the 
ewimmer, instead of pausing, hastened his movements, and 
soon disappeared among the willows that edged the bank. 

Valnoir would gladly have done the same, but he had 
neglected the art of natation, and was unable to swim six 
strokes. 

He had abundant cause to regret his call for aid, for 
three or four shots were -fired almost simultaneously from 
the left shore, and a faint splash told him that the balls 
had struck the water in front of the boat. 

He now bitterly deplored the idle curiosity that had first 
impelled him to follow Kegina, and. he would willingly 



68 THE RED BAND, 

have given up all right and title to the " Serpenteau " to 
see the boat deviate to the right. But he fancied, on the 
contrary, that it was moving in the opposite direction, and 
that its progress was much less rapid. 

Valnoir was endeavoring to ascertain the cause of this 
phenomenon, when he suddenly became aware of a new 
danger. 

The boat was leaking rapidly; in fact it was already be- 
ginning to sink. It was constructed of very thin planks, 
and as the water was rushing in from somewhere in the 
bow, there could be little doubt that one of the shots fired 
a few moments before had struck the frail craft, and the, 
leak must be stopped at once unless he had abandoned all 
hope of escapa from death. 

Eegina's cloak was the only thing at his disposal, and he 
tried to stop the leak with that; but this only served to re- 
tard the progress of the water. He tried, too, to bale the 
water out with his hat, and even with his hands, but he was 
obliged to abandon that attempt, for the boat had again 
become a target for the Prussian sharp-shooters, and the 
bullets were beginning to whistle so briskly that Valnoir 
thought it advisable to crouch down in the bottom of the 
boat. 

It was one of those situations in which even the most 
sanguine must give way to despair; and Mile, de Ohar- 
miere's admirer gave himself up for lost. 

" To die of drowning in this old boat like a rat in a trap!" 
he muttered savagely. " What a fate!" 

Then the thought that his body might be found and 
taken to the morgue made his blood curdle in his veins. 

It occurred to him, too, that the editors of rival papers 
would bo sure to say that the editor of the " Serpenteau " 
had perished While carrying information to the Prussians. 

"Taupier will not be sorry to take my place," he 
thought, bitterly. 
, Anger restored a portion of his wonted energy. 



THE RED BAND. 69 

It would be better to be captured by the Prussians than 
to lie at the bottom of the Seine, so he again resolved to 
call for aid at the risk of receiving yet another volley in 
response. 

" They will not understand me, perhaps," he said to 
himself, " bht they may think I am a spy bringing them 
news. They will come, and I shall be saved." 

He had noticed, moreover, that there had been no firing 
from the French shore at this point, and that the place 
seemed deserted, while a little further down the river a 
brisk fusillade was still going on. 

" Now is the time!" thought Valnoir, and he began to 
call out at the top of his voice — 

" Save me! friends, save me!" 

He took the precaution, however, to stretch himself out 
upon one of the seats in order to insure his safety in case 
the Prussians should take it into their heads to treat him to 
another volley. 

This time the enemy seemed to be less blood-thirsty. 
They did not fire, and Valnoir could distinctly hear them 
laughing and talking behind the trees that lined the shore. 
He could not understand what they were saying, but his in- 
stinct soon warned him that they were laughing at his dis- 
tress, and that they were going to allow him to perish. 

The boat was nearly full of water now, and might sink 
at any moment under the weight of its occupant and of the 
water that was gradually filling it; but by lightening its 
burden it might still be kept afloat some time, and Valnoir, 
though unable to swim across the river, felt quite sure that 
he would be able to keep himself afloat in the water if he 
had something to cling to. A new plan suddenly flashed 
through his mind, and he instantly set to work to carry it 
into execution. 

He began by rolling Kegina's mantle into a sort of rope, 
one end of which he tied about the gunwale, while out of 
the other end he made a sort of belt that he fastened around 



70 THE BED BAND. 

ins waist; then, by springing hastily to his feet, he made 
the boat rock violently for an instant and then overturn, a 
maneuver which had the twofold advantage of emptying 
the boat, which now floated tranquilly along keel uppermost, 
and of making the Prussians believe that all was over. 

When Valnoir rose to the surface he found that he had 
only to place his left hand on the floating boat and to move 
his right arm and limbs gently to keep himself from drown- 
ing, though it was evident from the shouts of laughter that 
followed his plunge into the river that the Prussians be- 
lieved the Frenchman was really and truly drowned. 

Valnoir's eyes> like his hopes, were now fixed upon the 
French shore which was not as deserted-as it appeared to 
be, perhaps, for more than once he fancied that he- had 
noticed a slight movement among the rushes on the river 
bank; besides^ two or three hundred yards below the Seine 
described a curve, and upon this point a light gleamed at 
intervals through the trees. 

"Our outposts must be stationed there/' thought Val- 
noir, " if I can reach them I am saved. " 

And he tried to gently drag the boat toward the shore 
where salvation lay. 

But he soon perceived that his limbs were becoming stiff, 
and that he would have to struggle with a new and danger- 
ous enemy — the cold. 

It was the beginning of autumn, and the temperature of 
the water was not intolerable, but on throwing himself into 
the river after a long and rapid walk, Valnoir had ex- 
perienced a shock whose consequences were beginning to 
make themselves felt. 

"If I don't reach land in a quarter of an hour I am 
lost!" he said to himself. 

At his present rate of progress this was about the time 
that he would require to reach the promontory where he 
hoped to find the French outposts. 

So there was still a chance for Valnoir, when he ex- 



THE RED BAND. 71 

perienced a violent jerk. The boat had been suddenly 
checked in its course. The mantle that united him to the 
skiff had caught around a pile planted almost in the middle 
of the river, and the natural effect of this was to separate 
Valnoir from the boat. He was dragged around to one side 
of the obstacle, while the boat floated round to the other 
side, and he found himself held a prisoner by the rope he 
himself had made. 

By one supreme effort he succeeded in pulling himself 
hand over hand to the pile by means of the mantle, and in 
seizing the top of it, which projected a little way above the 
surface of the water, but the task was not an easy one, and 
it exhausted him greatly. , . ■ - 

As he clung to the swaying log the unfortunate man felt 
the chilliness that had benumbed his limbs gradually as- 
cending to his heart. 

Soon his thoughts became confused, and he experienced 
sensations heretofore unknown to him. 

Flashes of memory traversed his brain, suddenly illumin- 
ing some forgotten scene of his childhood or infancy — those 
happy days before he had become the slave of the " Ser- 
penteau," or made the acquaintance of Mile, de Char- 
miere. 

Then the sensation of intolerable physical suffering re- 
turned, followed by moments in which his body seemed to 
diminish in size, and a profound torpor stole over him. 

He realized then that death was near, and closed his 
eyes. 

He had lost consciousness almost entirely now, but his 
hands still clutched the pile with the convulsive energy 
which the near approach of death imparts to a drowning 
man. 

He was aroused by a sharp pain. He had slipped a lit- 
tle, and a large nail, in the pile was tearing his flesh. 

Upon opening hiB eyes he also perceived that the boat 
had become detached from the mantle, and was -now float- 



"i THE RED BAND. 

ing gently clown the stream; but one end of the cloak was 
still knotted around his waist, the other was floating on the 
surface of the water. 

He could still hear the voices of the Prussians. Thej 
had ceased firing, and from that fact Valnoir concluded 
that they had lost sight of him, but he also felt that his 
strength would soon fail him utterly. 

His sufferings, .too, had become intolerable. Before un- 
clasping his arms and allowing himself to sink into the cold 
embrace of the pitiless river he cast one more despairing 
glance at the right shore. 

There lay France — there lay salvation; and the Tinforfcu- 
nate man said to himself that he was about to die on account 
of his inability to swim perhaps five minutes. 

By one of • those strange mental processes that occur in 
supreme moments, the pale face of the expiring Saint 
Senier suddenly appeared before him as in a dream. 

Valnoir, though carefully reared by a simple-minded and 
devout mother, had long since forgotten the faith of his 
childhood, but there still clung to him a vague belief in the 
just reward or punishment of some human acts even in this 
world. 

" I have killed a fellow-man, and it is only right that I 
myself should die," he thought. 

And he cast one more long glance around him as if bid- 
ding a final adieu to life. 

A light westerly wind had risen, and clouds now con- 
cealed the stars from sight. The Seine had assumed a 
leaden hue, and the silence was broken only by the cannon 
of Mount Valerien, which thundered forth their defiance 
only at long intervals. 

The quiet was so profound that a very faint and distant 
sound proceeding from the right bank of the river was dis- 
tinctly heard by Valnoir, whose senses had acquired that 
singular acuteness which overexcited nerves imparts. 
L He made one more effort to lift himself above the surface 



THE RED BAND. 73 

of the water, and gazed eagerly at the place from which he 
fancied he had heard a faint splash. 

A tiny black speck, so small as to be scarcely visible, had 
appeared upon the gray surface of the water. Valnoir's 
heart sunk like lead at the thought that some one was at 
last coming to his aid only to arrive too late. 

"But the black speck was coming nearer, and he could 
distinctly hear a faint but measured sound. 

One minute more, and he might perhaps escape a fright- 
ful death. 

But a terrible cramp contracted his muscles, and though 
his nails were buried in the post, his hands could no longer 
support his weight. 

" Hold fast!" said the suppressed voice of the swimmer, 
who was now making his way through the water with mar- 
velous rapidity. 

Valnoir tried to hold on with his teeth, but this attempt 
also proved a failure; his fingers relaxed their hold, and he 
was about to sink, when a strong arm seized him by the 
shoulder and kept his head above water. 

" Rest a moment and lean upon me," said the man who 
had appeared so opportunely; and Valnoir threw his arms 
around his preserver's neck and clung to him with all the 
energy of despair. 

" Don't do that, you are choking me," continued the 
voice. " Just place your hands on my shoulder, and I will 
save you." 

But Valnoir did not seem to hear him; and to free him- 
self from the dangerous embrace the stranger was obliged 
to give him a violent push. 

Valnoir let go his hold, and sunk, beating the water 
wildly with both arms. He would certainly have been 
drowned if the stranger had not promptly seized him and 
restored him to an upright position as soon as he rose to 
the surface. 

He then began to regain a little of his self-possession; his 



74 THE RED BAND? 

eyes opened, his oppressed chest filled with air, and Tie 
heaved a long sigh of relief. 

"Now stretch yourself out in the water as I told you, 
and let me do the rest," said the stranger. " But be quick. 
We have no time to lose. I fear we have been seen 
already." 

This was only too true, unfortunately. . The sound of 
the brief struggle had attracted the attention of the Prus- 
sians, and a shot was fired from the opposite bank. The 
bullet struck the water about ten feet from the pile. 

' ' They are aiming badly; but we had better make haste, " 
remarked the stranger, tranquilly, and this time Valnoir 
did not compel him to repeat the invitation. 

As, nearly as he could judge in the darkness, his preserver 
was a young man; and he had not taken time to undress 
before throwing himself into the Seine, for his shoulders, at 
least, were covered with a woolen garment. Valnoir could 
not distinguish the stranger's features, but his voice seemed 
familiar, and he tried to recall the circumstances under 
which he had previously heard it, but his mind was too con- 
fused. 

Besides, the situation was by no means reassuring, for 
the Prussian sharp-shooters, aroused by their comrades' rifles, 
returned to their hiding-places among the willows, and now 
opened a brisk fire upon the fugitives. 

The night was too dark for them to aim with much pre?- 
cision, but the frequent passage of a rifle ball warned Val- 
noir that his life still hung upon a thread. 

" Courage, we are nearing the shore," remarked the in- 
trepid swimmer occasionally. 

The outline of the right bank of the river was indeed be- 
coming distinctly visible, and Valnoir even fancied that he 
could already discern human forms moving about among 
the trees. 

A sharp whistle, the sharpest and shortest he had yet 
heard, interrupted these reflections. A ball had just passed 



THE RED BAND. 75 

close to his head, and he thought that the swimmer, too, 
had given a sudden start. 

" Are you wounded, sir?" he inquired with a solicitude 
which was the more sincere from the fact that his own life 
depended upon that of his preserver. 

" Oh, it's nothing," replied the stranger, striking out 
vigorously for the shore, with his right arm. 

Only a few more strokes were required to bring him to 
the bank, and he reached it without much apparent diffi- 
culty. 

" Now give it to them, boys," he cried> as he scrambled 
out of the water. ... . 

The words were hardjy out of his mouth when a brisk 
volley was fired* and, probably not without effect, iov a cry 
of mingled rage and pain resounded from the Prussian 
shore. 

When Valnoir iound himself safe on land the artificial 
energy that had previously sustained him suddenly gave 
way. A mist obscured his vision; his limbs trembled, and 
he staggered like a drunken man. ./ 

"Help him up to the Bed House, boys, as soon as you 
can," said his preserver to some soldiers who had stepped 
forward to meet them. 

" But how about yourself, lieutenant?" replied one of 
the men. ' ' I hope the rascals didn't hit you. " 

" Yes, in the shoulder; but the wound is so slight that I. 
shall not require a surgeon. You can dress it yourself, my 
old Landreau." 

The officer followed the little party to a house not more 
than twenty yards distant, though it was not visible from 
the shore. 

Valnoir was naturally the first to enter a large hall in 
which a bright fire was blazing on the hearth, and being 
anxious to dry himself, he hastened to the fire-place .and 
turned his back to the flame. This movement brought him 
face to face with the officer, who drew back in surprise. 



76 THE EED BAND. 

The rescuer and the rescued had recognized each other. 
Valnoir was in the presence of one of the participants in 
the duel at Saint Germain, Lieutenant Eoger de Saint 
Senier. 

To owe his life to a man who had good reason to hate 
him with a mortal hatred was a surprise for which the 
journalist was utterly unprepared, and so far as his own 
self-love was concerned he certainly would have preferred 
to fall into the hands of the Prussians. 

The astonishment of the officer was no less profound, 
and his countenance instantly assumed an expression of 
haughty repugnance that wounded the journalist keenly. 

M. de Saint Senier was tall, slender and fair; his regular 
features were characterized by an almost effeminate delicacy 
and gentleness, and his budding mustache indicated that he 
was not more than twenty-three years of age at most; but 
his clear blue eyes imparted a remarkable expression of 
courage and audacity to his youthful face. 

The lieutenant was attired in blue trousers with red 
stripes and a white flannel shirt. Before jumping into the 
river, he had torn off his coat, but he had not even taken 
time to remove the long boots that reached nearly to his 
knees. 

He was standing only a few feet from Valnoir, who was 
a striking contrast to his preserver in appearance. The 
editor-in-chief of the " Serpenteau ,; was of medium height 
and very dark-complexioned, and the furrows on his rather 
angular and haggard face indicated passion rather than 
energy. One would have supposed him at least ten years 
older than M. Saint Senier, though in reality he was not 
yet thirty. 

To a close observer these two men represented two en- 
tirely different types which the chances of war often bring 
together— one the son of an influential and wealthy family, 
reared in the country amid surroundings that discipline the 
mind and strengthen the character; the other, the lad 



THE BED BASIC 77 

thrown immediately upon leaving college into the feverish 
life of a great city where illusions are speedily exchanged 
for vices. 

They eyed each other as men of rival classes always eye 
each other on their first meeting, and their instinctive dis- 
trust and disliko were apparent in the very glances they in- 
terchanged; but Valnoir was at a decided disadvantage in 
this silent struggle, for he could not forget that M. de 
Saint Senier had just rescued him from certain death, and 
it devolved upon him to break the icy silence that had fol- 
lowed the moment of recognition. Valnoir endeavored, 
accordingly, to find some suitable words of gratitude to ad- 
dress to his preserver, but had considerable difficulty in 
finding them. 

The intervention of a subordinate extricated him from 
his embarrassing position. 

" Let me look at your wound, lieutenant," said one of 
the soldiers, approaching M. de Saint Senier. 

The man who thus offered his services wore the uniform 
of the National Guards, but he had long since passed the 
age of compulsory service, either in the militia or in the 
army. 

Short, and thin, though the possessor of broad shoulders 
and a well-developed chest, this old soldier had a long face 
with a broad nose, and a stiff gray mustache, while his 
bronzed skin indicated that his life had been spent in the 
open air, and his small brown eyes sparkled with animation 
and intelligence. 

" Ah, Monsieur Koger," he remarked, as he cut open 
the blood-stained sleeve that covered the lieutenant's left 
arm, " I told you that it was folly to go and maie yourself 
a target for those rascally Prussians, to say nothing of the 
danger of contracting lung fever. And to run such, a 
risk—" 

" It's a mere seratch, I assure you, my brave Landreau," 
replied the officer. 



78 THE RED BAND. 

" It is true that the bullet did not carry away much flesh 
with it," said the old soldier, who was now examining the 
wound with the eye of a connoisseur; " but even that little 
is too much. You will have plenty of opportunities to en- 
counter bullets on land, without going to the middle of the 
river in search of them. An! it was a lucky thing that I 
enlisted in your company. The poachers at Saint Senier 
will perhaps kill a few more partridges now I am not there 
to catch them, but I can at least watch over you, and 
Mademoiselle Kenee will say that I did right to melt my 
gamekeeper's badge into bullets." 

On hearing this name of Eenee, which awakened such 
remorse in his heart, Valnoir could not repress a nervous 
start, and the lieutenant frowned slightly. 

" Mademoiselle will certainly be much grieved to hear of 
this," continued Landreau, as he proceeded with the task 
of bandaging the wound. " If you should be killed, what 
would become of mademoiselle now she hasn't my poor 
master left to protect her. Ah! if I had been present at 
that accursed duel, the villain who shot him would not have 
returned to Paris alive. I would have killed him like a dog. " 

Valnoir turned pale, and repressed the words that were 
already upon his lips, for this did not seem to be a suitable 
moment to thank his preserver. 

"I shall have no further need of you now," remarked 
M. de Saint Senier, when the dressing of the wound was 
concluded. " I am going to remain here in the chimney- 
corner with this gentleman, who must want to warm him- 
self, so return to the bank of the river, with your comrades, 
and see that the men do not expose themselves unneces- 
sarily." 

" If they do they will only be following their com- 
mander's example," growled the incorrigible old seryanfc.- 
"But if you should need me, Monsieur .Roger, you must 
remember that I am not far off," he added, casting an un- 
friendly glance at Valnoir. 



THE RED BAND. 79 

" Have no fears. If I need you I'll whistle twice." 

After receiving this assurance, Landreau concluded to 
leave the house with the other soldiers, and Valnoir and 
the young officer found themselves alone together. The 
editor-in-chief of the " Serpenteau " had had time to pre- 
pare "himself, however; so without any further delay, he 
said warmly: 

" I owe my life to you, sir, and I am glad to owe it to 
you. My failure to thank you more promptly was due 
entirely to the fact that I did not like to make any allusion 
in the presence of your soldiers to the deplorable circum- 
stances attending our former meeting. But now we are 
alone, you must allow me to express not only my profound 
gratitude, but the sincere grief the result of that unfort- 
unate duel has caused me." 

" That is entirely unnecessary, sir," interrupted the 
officer. " I can accept neither the thanks you offer, nor 
the sympathy you express, but I must remind you that you, 
too, are under obligations to fight with me. " 

" With you, sir! with you, who have just saved my life." 

" I made this same demand in the forest of Saint Ger- 
main a few moments before the duel," replied M. de Saint 
Senier, coldly, " and you know the circumstances that 
alone prevented a second hostile meeting. I was unable to 
fight with you on account of the arrival of the Prussians, 
which compelled us to make immediate use of the vehicle 
chance placed in our path." 

" I recollect perfectly all that occurred," said the jour- 
nalist, quickly; " but I have not seen Podensac since, so I 
am still ignorant how the sad journey ended, and I should 
like to ask — " 

" Will you be kind enough to tell me when and where I 
can meet you?" inquired the officer, without paying the 
slightest attention to Valnoir 's question. 

That gentleman was not prepared for the turn affairs had 
taken, but he said firmly, though sadly: 



80 THE BED BANS. 

' ' I have reasons which any man of feeling will under- 
stand for refusing to fight with you; besides, I have never 
wronged or insulted you personally." 

" You have insulted the name I bear," said the officer, 

gravel}'. 

" In the heat of a political controversy I indulged in 
language that I now bitterly regret," replied Yalnoir. 

M. de Saint Senier attempted to silence him with a gest- 
ure which was almost insulting in its indifference, but the 
editor-in-chief persisted in his efforts to secure a hearing. 

" I assure you, sir," he continued, " that I should never 
have consented to that fatal duel if I had the honor of a 
personal acquaintance with you, or your relatives." 

" So you absolutely refuse to fight?" demanded the lieu- 
tenant. 

Valnoir tried to frame an evasive reply, but he had not 
time. 

M. de Saint Senier had suddenly sprung to his feet. His 
face was colorless, and his eyes fairly blazed with anger as 
he pointed to Kegina's mantle, which was lying on the 
table where Valnoir had thrown it on his entrance. 

The latter understood, and turned pale in his turn. 

The mantle was of some heavy Oriental stuff that must 
have been purchased originally in some bazaar at Smyrna 
or Cairo, and the garment was adorned with two heavily 
wrought gold clasps that rendered it easily recognizable. 

" Where did you get that cloak, sir?" he demanded in a 
voice that trembled with anger. 

" Explain! "Vindicate yourself, if you can!" added the 
lieutenant, still more threateningly. 

"Vindicate myself! Of what crime am I accused, if 
you please?" asked Valnoir, merely to gain time. 

M. de Saint Senier's anger was the cold anger of the 
native of the north, and the journalist's question promptly 
. restored his self-possession. 

" You are right, sir/' he said, reseating himself. " It 



THE RED BAND. 81 

is my duty to explain my meaning clearly, and I advise 
you, for your own sake, to answer me in the same way. 
I was on guard just now, on the bank of the Seine, 
when I heard a cry for aid, in French. My men tried to 
prevent me from endangering my life in order to rescue a 
drowning man, but I could not abandon a fellow-country- 
man, so I plunged into the water and succeeded in saving 
you from the twofold peril that threatened you." 

" I am not unmindful of the service you rendered me," 
exclaimed Valnoir warmly, " and I am ready to prove my 
gratitude." 

" Will you have the goodness not to interrupt me, but to 
listen to me until the end," replied M. de Saint Senier, 
coldly. "I know nothing about this man I just saved," 
continued the lieutenant. " He was very possibly a de- 
serter and a spy — " 

Valnoir made a gesture of indignant denial. 

" I said ' possibly/ " continued the officer, coldly. " I 
should have said ' probably/ for who but a deserter or a 
spy would attempt to cross the Seine at night, opposite a 
Prussian outpost. I certainly have no reason to conceal the 
fact that I intended to question you closely after your rescue; 
but when I recognized you in the fire-light just now, I could 
see in you, and I shall henceforth see in you only the mor- 
tal enemy of all who bear my name, and my first impulse 
was to avenge our family honor before doing my duty as a 
soldier. It suits me now/' he continued haughtily, " to 
recollect that I am on duty at the outposts, and to demand 
an account of your proceedings this night." 

Valnoir had had time to prepare his defense. 

"As you please, sir," he said in the injured tone of a 
man who is unjustly accused. 

" "Whence did you come?" inquired the lieutenant. 

"From Paris." 

"The gates are closed at seven o'clock, how could you 
have left the city?" 



82 THE RED BAND. 

" I left the city in a boat. " 

" And you were able to pass the closely watched carrier 
that has been .placed across the river." 

" Yes. I was fired at from the bastion, but they didn't 
hit me. " 

" Where were you going?" 

" Nowhere in particular. " 

" I warn you that if you refuse to explain, I shall cer- 
tainly send you to the commandant, who will doubtless 
find a way to make you speak. " 

" I have told you the truth," replied Valnoir, ho whit 
disconcerted. " I did not know where I was going, for I 
had no means of steering the boat I was in. " 

" You seem inclined to jest, sir, and I have no time to 
waste. Why did you get into the boat?" 

" To save a person's life — in fact, a woman's life." 

The blow had told, for M. de Saint Senier could not con- 
ceal his emotion. 

" And this cloak?" he asked, in an agitated voice. 

"Belonged to her. I saw it floating on the water and 
picked it up in the hope of being able to discover from it 
the name of the poor victim of despair." 

The lieutenant buried his face in his hands. 

"As you seem to have no intention of questioning me 
further, sir," Valnoir said, with admirably feigned 
dignity, "lam ready to tell you all the details of this sad 
story. I was alone on the Quai d'Auteuil, whither I had 
gone to pay a visit to a friend, when a woman rushed past 
me. She was making straight for the river, and her 
frantic air aroused in my mind a suspicion that she was 
about to commit suicide. I followed her, and found that I 
had guessed only too correctly. She had ho sooner reached 
the bank of "the river than she plunged headlong into the 
Seine, and unfortunately I was a moment too late." 

"Is it possible that you made ho attempt to save her?" 

<* £ On the contrary, it was the attempt to save her that so 



THE RED BAND. 83 

nearly cost me my life just now," replied Valnoir, quiet- 
ly. "I do not know how to swim, as you must be aware, 
so I did the only thing it was in my power to do, I untied 
a boat and tried to overtake the poor woman who had just 
disappeared. Unfortunately I did not see her again; her 
cloak was floating on the water. I picked it up. You 
know the rest. " 

" Bill you know this woman?" inquired M. de Saint 
Senier, who seemed to be afraid to push his questions too far. 

"I had never seen her before," replied Valnoir, with 
unblushing effrontery. 

Then, reading doubt in the lieutenant's eyes, he has- 
tened to add: 

"Though, even if, I had seen her before, which I am 
sure I had not, I should not have been able to recognize 
her, for the night was quite dark, and I did not see her 
face." 

" Did you notice her dress?" 

" No; that is, I only noticed this mantle," replied Val- 
noir, with rather less assurance, for he was beginning to 
marvel at M. de Saint Senier 's persistence. 

" I should be very glad to believe that you were telling 
the truth, sir," remarked the lieutenant, "but I feel 
obliged to tell you that you had previously seen the young 
girl who was drowned under your very eyes, you say." 

" Indeed? I — I — I assure you I didn't know it," stam- 
mered Valnoir, considerably disconcerted. 

" I will remind you of the circumstances under which 
you met her," said M. de Saint Senier, gravely but im- 
pressively. 

" I should be greatly obliged to you if- you would," mur- 
mured the journalist, rising to escape the searching gaze of 
his enemy. "But I must get away from the fire for a 
minute or two, it is becoming too hot for me. " 

As he spoke, he walked across the room to the only win- 
dow it contained. His head was throbbing violently, and 



84 THE RED BAM). 

he was about to press his hot forehead against the pane, 
when he fancied he saw a human form outside. 

He was not mistaken. Two eyes that burned like coals 
of fire were looking straight at him. 

The night was dark, and the bright fire that was blazing 
in the room prevented Valnoir from distinguishing objects 
outside very clearly, however. 

Besides, the person had disappeared before there was 
time for any recognition. 

M. de Saint Senier had not turned, but seemed to be 
awaiting a reply. 

" I repeat, sir, that you had seen the young woman be- 
fore," he said, slowly. " Besides, her dress was peculiar 
enough to attract your attention, and it is very strange, to 
say the least, that you did not recognize her. " 

" Can it be that you are referring to the young girl we 
met at Saint Germain?" inquired Valnoir. 

"Precisely," replied the officer, rising to look his ad- 
versary full in the face. 

" But in that case, even if I had failed to recognize her, 
she would have recognized me. " 

" That is exactly what I think," said M. de Saint Senier, 
coldly. 

There was a long silence. 

Valnoir resumed his seat on the stool in front of the fire, 
forgetting, in his embarrassment, that he had just com- 
plained of its ardor. The officer seemed to be engaged in 
following out an idea he hesitated to express. 

" Look here," he at last said, abruptly, " I am going to 
speak frankly." 

Valnoir bowed as if to thank him. 

" Your story would seem very plausible to any one but 
me," continued the lieutenant, " but I am obliged to tell 
you that it is impossible for me to credit it " 

" And why, if you please?" inquired the journalist, with 
an injured air. 



THE RED BAND. 85 

" Because the young girl could not be thinking of suicide 
for the very good reason that she had the very best of rea- 
sons for clinging to life. " 

" Who can say?" interrupted Valnoir, shrugging his 
shoulders. " In a fit of despondency arising perhaps from 
an unfortunate love affair — ' ' 

" Don't slander her, I beg," broke in M. de Saint 
Senier, haughtily. She had a commission to perform, and 
she would not have yielded up her life of her own free will. 
Her death, consequently, is still a mystery to me, and un- 
til I learn the true cause of it, you will remain my 
prisoner/' 

" Then I am likely to remain in your custody a long 
time," retorted Valnoir, in a mocking tone, " and great as 
is my gratitude, I can't say that I fancy the idea of spend- 
ing my life at the outposts, even in my preserver^ com- 
pany." 

" Would you prefer that I should conduct you into the 
presence of a judge who would demand to know what you 
were doing on the Seine at this hour of the night — a judge 
who wears a sword at his side, and from whose decision 
there is no appeal — the provost-marshal?" 

The journalist turned pale, but he did not lose his pres- 
ence of mind. A remark made by M. de Saint Senier had 
attracted his attention. 

"You alluded just now, sir," he said, more gravely, 
"to an important mission that had been confided to that 
young girl. May I ask what this mission was?" 

" It was to meet me here this very evening," replied the 
lieutenant. 

"Very well, then, with this item of information and 
others winch you can doubtless furnish, the provost-mar- 
shal will have no difficulty in discovering the truth, and I 
am perfectly willing to be taken before him. " 

For Valnoir felt sure that his adversary would think 
twice before making this affair public by reporting it to the., 



86 THE BED BAND. 

provost-marshal, and M. de Saint Senier's manner showed 
that the journalist was perfectly right in this surmise, for 
he bit his lip as if he regretted having said too much. 

Valnoir deemed it a favorable moment for striking a de- 
cisive blow. 

" I think, sir," he began, more lightly, "that we have 
both made a mistake. I refused to fight with you because 
I thought it wrong to fight with a man who had just saved 
my life; and you now threaten me with arrest for a crime 
I have not committed. I think it would be wiser for us to 
defer the settlement of an affair that seems by no means 
urgent. As the investiture of the city is complete, I could 
not leave Paris if I wanted to, so you are sure of finding me 
whenever you choose, and I promise you, upon my word of 
honor, to hold myself entirely at your disposal, if you per- 
sist in your request for a hostile meeting. As to the strange 
affair of this evening," continued Valnoir, " I am as anx- 
ious to clear up the mystery as you can possibly be, and if 
you think that anything would be gained by making the 
facts public — " 

" On the contrary, I am most anxious that what has oc- 
curred should be kept a secret from every one," interrupted 
the lieutenant, pausing in his excited tramp up and down 
the room, " and if I consent to what you ask, it will only 
be on condition that you keep the affair a profound secret. " 

"I can cheerfully promise you that!" exclaimed the 
journalist, delighted to get out of the scrape so easily. 

" Then to-morrow morning you can return to Paris, but 
I shall rely upon your promise, and I shall send two of my 
friends to remind you of it as soon as my company is re- 
lieved. You are now free, sir." 

Valnoir was about to leave the room when the door was 
hastily opened. 

" Eegina!" cried M. de Saint Senier, who had turned at 
the sound. Mlle.de Charmiere's lover recoiled in aston- 
. ishment and terror. ,. 



THE BED BAND. 87 

The young girl he had supposed dead, stood before him, 
clothed exactly as she had been on the day of the duel, and 
he started back as if he had been suddenly confronted by a 
specter, but Eegina did not seem to see him. 

On the contrary, she walked straight up to the officer, 
who was trembling with emotion and joy, and handed him 
a letter. 

" So you are living!" murmured the young officer, press- 
ing her hands warmly. " But how did you manage to es- 
cape death? Who saved you? But I forget that you can 
not hear me," he added, with an impatient gesture. 

But Eegina had doubtless understood the question by the 
movement of the officer's lips, for she imitated with her 
arms the movements of a swimmer. 

Valnoir began to understand. 

" She plunged into the river to escape me," he thought, 
" and I paid dearly for my attempt to pursue her. " 

" But why did you expose yourself to suqh danger?" 
continued M. de Saint Senier, seating the girl by the fire, 
for her garments were still dripping with water. " Why 
did Eenee send you so late?" 

Eegina again proved that she could hear with her e) r es, 
for she placed a finger upon her lips. 

" Ah, ha!" thought the journalist, " she comes at the 
bidding of Mademoiselle de Saint Senier, that is evident." 

By an even more significant gesture, the young girl bade 
the officer read the letter she had just given him, and M. 
de Saint Senier broke with a trembling hand the large 
black seal whose device the keen eyes of the journalist had 
already distinguished. 

As the perusal of the. letter proceeded, the lieutenant's 
face brightened, and as he read the concluding words two 
big tears rolled down his cheeks. 

Eegina watched every change of expression with eager at- 
tention. 
■■ " Thanks, thanks," he said, earnestly, " but do not ex- 



88 THE RED BAKD. 

pose yourself to such danger again. In a few days I shall 
be able to go and see them — " 

Again a quick movement on the part of the girl remind- 
ed him that Valnoir was present. 

That gentleman, thinking that he should not be able to 
gain much information from a conversation which Regina 
always took good care to interrupt just at the critical mo- 
ment, concluded to take his departure. 

" I am going now, sir," he said, courteously, turning to 
the lieutenant; "but permit me to express my gratifica- 
tion at seeing alive and well a person in whom you seem to 
take a deep interest. I am happy, too, to have been able 
to prove my innocence before my departure," he added, 
with a forced smile. 

" I was mistaken, sir," said the officer, gravely, " and I 
repeat that you are free. " 

Valnoir bowed and turned to go, but Eegina sprung be- 
tween him and the door, stretching out both arms as if to 
bar his passage. 

The lieutenant seemed to be even more alarmed than the 
editor of the " Serpenteau " by this strange and unexpected 
demonstration on the part of the young girl. 

" Why do you wish to prevent this gentleman's depart- 
ure?" he asked, slowly, as if to give her time to follow each 
movement of his lips. 

This time, Eegina did not seem to understand him. 

" This is intended as a joke, no doubt," ventured Val- 
noir, with a poor attempt at a smile. 

" One does not jest when one has just escaped death," 
replied M. de Saint Senier, gravely. 

" Then will you be kind enough to put an end to a scene 
which would undoubtedly prove a great success on the stage 
of the Porte Saint Martin, but which seems to be very 
much out of place here?" 

' ' I have told you twice, sir, that you are free, and I do not 
forbid your departure now, though I know this young girl 



THE RED BAND. 89 

well enough to feel sure that she must have some good rea- 
son for wishing to detain you." 

" But I am unable to ask her what it is, unfortunately," 
sneered the journalist. 

" She will explain it, however, and not entirely to your 
satisfaction, I fear/' retorted M. de Saint Senier, to whom 
Valnoir's manner seemed decidedly offensive. 

" The sooner the better, then, for it is nearly morning, 
and I have more important business on hand. " 

These words, uttered in an insolent tone, made the lieu- 
tenant cast aside his air of cold reserve, and walking 
straight up to the prisoner, and looking him full in the 
face, he said : 

" There is a very easy way to settle the matter. I have 
two swords; the room is large enough, and we will fight 
here and now. If you kill me, you can return to Paris to 
fabricate fresh slanders. " 

" And this lady is to serve in the capacity of second?" 
inquired Valnoir, ironically. 

" Exactly," was the cold reply. 

Though he had no desire to expose himself to the dangers 
of another duel, the journalist was beginning to fear that 
it would be impossible to avoid it, for M. de Saint Senier 
had already started for the corner of the room where he 
had deposited his weapons. 

Eegina had not moved, but she was watching M. de Saint- 
Senier's every movement, though, as yet, there was noth- 
ing that indicated any intention of interfering on her part. 

The lieutenant was busily engaged in examining the 
swords he had drawn from their scabbards, when a lively 
fusillade resounded from the river — a fusillade in which 
the shrill reports of vhasse-pots alternated with shots of a 
deeper tone. 

M. de Saint Senier hesitated a moment, and it was evi- 
dent that he could not decide whether to close with his an- 
tagonist or hasten out to assume command of his men. 



901 THE BED BAND. 

" You can go, sir," said Valnoir, with the slightest tinge 
of irony in his voice. " I promise to await your return. " 

This assurance did not seem to satisfy the officer, how- 
ever, for instead of going toward the door, he opened the 
window and blew two shrill blasts upon a small silver whistle 
he wore about his neck. 

A moment had scarcely elapsed when Landreau's voice 
was heard outside. 

" It is nothing, Monsieur Roger," he said in a perfectly 
calm voice. " That simpleton Tournois was fool enough 
to show himself on the river bank, that is all, and the 
Prussians caught sight of him." 

" Is any one hurt?" 

" Not a soul; they aimed too high, as usual, the idiots!" 

" Very well, go back to the river, but call me if the af- 
fair becomes serious." 

" Very well, Monsieur Roger. Fll keep an eye on them; 
never fear." 

M. de Saint Senier closed the window and resumed his 
examination of the swords. 

"Once more, and for the last time,' ' remarked Val- 
noir, " I will remind you that a duel under the conditions 
you propose, is not only absurd but unheard of." 

" That doesn't matter," replied the lieutenant coldly, 
but resolutely. " I have decided to end the matter, here 
and now." 

" But what if _ should refuse to fight?" 

"If you refuse, I shall take measures to compel you to 
fight." 

This reply was accompanied by such a threatening gest- 
ure that Valnoir saw that there was no escape for him. 

The officer pushed aside the table that stood in the mid- 
dle of the room, and then approaching Valnoir, held out 
both swords to allow him to take his choice. The firing 
had not ceased : indeed, the engagement seemed to be in- 
creasing in violence. 



THE BED BAND. 91 

! Valnoir had taken one sword, and was removing his coat, 
when some one rapped loudly on the window. 

"Lieutenant!" cried a voice without; " Landreau sends 
me to tell you that we have two men wounded already, and 
that the Prussians seem to be crossing the river." 

" I am coming," replied the lieutenant. Then turning 
to Valnoir, he added : 

" Will you accompany me?" 

The editor-in-chief of the " Serpenteau " hesitated an 
instant, but feeling the necessity of getting rid of Kegina 
at any cost, he finally answered boldly: 

" I am ready. Give me a gun so I can be of some use. 
I would rather be killed by the enemy than by you." 

" So be it," responded M. de Saint Senier, buckling on 
Ms belt. 

He was about to rush from the room, followed by Val- 
noir, when the young girl touched him on the arm. 

" What is it, Kegina?" he asked hurriedly. 

Pointing to Valnoir with one hand, she made a negative 
movement of the head, as if to say: 

" He must not be allowed to go. " 

M. de , Saint Senier, though greatly surprised, tried to 
hurry by her, but the girl held him firmly. 

" But, Kegina, my girl, I must go," said the officer 
kindly. 

The firing seemed to come nearer. 

" We are losing time, monsieur," cried Valnoir, " and if 
you will take my advice, you will leave mademoiselle here. " 

" Good-bye, Kegina," cried M. de Saint Senier, making 
a rush for the door. 

But the young girl intercepted him* as she had pre- 
viously intercepted Valnoir, but this time, with a rapid 
movement she slipped her hand in her bosom, and drew 
out a slip of paper which she handed to the officer. 

" Wretch!" he exclaimed, turning fiercely upon Valnoir, 
as soon as he had glanced over it. 



92 THE RED BAND. 

But at that very instant the door was thrown violently 
open, and the old gamekeeper burst into the room. 

" Monsieur Roger/ ' he cried, breathlessly,'" the Prussians 
are upon us. They have crossed the Seine. We shall cer- 
tainly be taken prisoners. " 

M. de Saint Senier rushed out, and Eegina, unable to de- 
tain him, followed him, clinging to his clothing. The 
clamor without increased in violence, and Valnoir was en- 
deavoring to decide whether to flee or remain where he was, 
when his eyes fell upon a scrap of paper that the lieutenant 
had tossed upon the table as he left the room. 

Snatching it up, the journalist saw these words written 
in a clear, bold hand : 

" This man and his accomplice foully murdered your 
cousin." 



CHAPTER IV 

Valnoir, like many other men of letters, resided in 
what is known as the Saint George quarter. 

The success of the " Serpenteau " was still too recent to 
have enriched its editor-in-chief to any great extent, and 
though he spent a good deal of money, Mile, de Char- 
miere's admirer had not yet dared to take up his abode in 
the expensive neighborhood of the Madeleine. 

Rose often jested with her lover about his plebeian tastes, 
but being of an eminently practical turn of mind, she wise- 
ly came to the conclusion that the more money he saved, 
the more he would have to lavish upon her by and by, so 
it came to pass that the man who thought nothing of spend- 
ing three louis for a dinner at the Cafe Anglais, and who 
never walked a block, still occupied a six hundred-franc 
lodging, and had no servant but his porter. 

Still, it must be admitted that the abode he had fitted up 
for himself in this locality so dear to Bohemians was not 
wanting in comfort, or even iu elegance. 



THE RED BAND. 93 

His windows overlooked an extensive garden, and he had 
four rooms, all of which were furnished with a great deal 
of taste. His favorite apartment, however, was a small 
smoking-room, where he had collected all the conveniences 
for writing and sleeping, as well as for smoking. 

An oak table, a large sofa, covered with some Persian 
stuff, two arm-chairs, and pipes of every shape and size, 
constituted the entire appointments of this room, into 
which only intimate friends were admitted. 

It was here that the journalist entrenched himself on the 
day following the eventful night he spent on the Seine. 

After the skirmish that freed him from M. de Saint 
Senier and Eegina, Valnoir lost no time in making his es- 
cape from a spot that had become dangerous in every re- 
spect, and after making his way home, he went to sleep 
with the consoling thought that the lieutenant and his com- 
panion had either been killed or taken prisoner by the 
Prussians, and that he was well rid of them in either case. 

On waking about noon, Valnoir found upon the little ta- 
ble by his bedside the following note from Mile, de Char- 
miere: 

" You chose to spend last evening away from me, and I 
shall spend to-day without you, though you have my per- 
mission to call at three o'clock to-morrow. In the mean- 
time, Taupier will give you news of me, and tell you all 
about our plans for the organization of the ' Moon with the 
Teeth/" 

It being too late to send any copy to the office of the 
" Serpenteau/'' JValnoir decided to pass the day at home 
in attending to his neglected correspondence. \ - 

" Taupier will drop in presently," he said to himself, 
with a yawn, " and he will tell me how the evening elided.'" 

" Ah, good-morning, Master Bourignard," he exclaimed, 
seeing his concierge enter, tray in hand. " You seem to 
have guessed that I needed a cup of tea this morning. 
Your discernment does you honor. Take the tray into the 



91 



THE KED BAND. 



Fmoking-room, and don't let any one but Monsieur Tan- 
pier in to-day." 

The person thus complimented was the possessor of a 
long, hooked nose and a very prominent chin that evinced 
a strong inclination to approach each other, and wore gold 
bowed spectacles — more for ornament than use probably, as 
they usually adorned the top of his bald head — and a blue 
coat with silver buttons,, fashioned after the garment worn 
by Robespierre on the day of the fete of the Supreme Be- 
ing, while his thin neck was swathed in a large white 
cravat. 

" I am flattered by your approval, citizen editor,' ' he re- 
plied, in a voice that seemed to come from the inmost re- 
aesses of his enormous nose; " but I must ask you not to 
apply the title of noble father to me. " 

" Of course not, if you don't like it; but I thought I was 
paying you a great compliment." 

" I am a father, it is true, and I am proud of it, for my 
son Agricola is a great comfort to me, but I am not of no- 
ble birth, and I am glad of it, for if I were — " 

" If you were, you would love the nobility and now you 
Ban't endure them," interrupted Valnoir with a hearty 
laugh. " Come, Bourignard, pour out my tea. That pays 
much better than talking politics." 

The concierge concluded to follow his employer into the 
smoking-room, and began to prepare breakfast without los- 
ing any of the majesty of mien peculiar to him. 

" The news is very encouraging this morning," he re- 
marked, " and I think we shall soon be rid of William's 
barbarous hordes. " 

" Encouraging, my dear Bourignard, encouraging! Why, 
the Prussians crossed the Seine last night, and our outposts 
were obliged to retreat under the cannon of the forts for 
protection." 

" It is very evident that monsieur does not know what I 
know, " replied the porter, with a meaning smile. 



THE RED BAND. 95 

" And what do you know, my great strategist?" 

" I know that Gringalet is here, and that he will not al- 
low one of the soldiers of despotism to return to Prussia/' 
replied the patriotic concierge. 

" And who is Gringalet?" inquired the journalist, try- 
ing hard to keep his face straight. 

" Gringalet is a sailor, sir, who superintends the firing 
of all our guns, one after another, and who never misses 
his aim. A host in himself is Gringalet, and that is the 
reason I have dressed my son Agricola like a sailor. His 
mother wanted to buy him a soldier suit, but I opposed it, 
because I suspect the militia of having brought conservative 
ideas from their native provinces. But I must not forget 
to tell monsieur that some one called to see him a short 
time ago. " 

"Who was it? One of the militia?" 

" Yes, and an officer. He was accompanied by a very 
aristocratic-looking civilian. I told him that monsieur was 
asleep, and they said they would call again, this evening, 
or to-morrow morning. " 

Bourignard little suspected the startling nature of this 
announcement, for the editor-in-chief, who had momen- 
tarily forgotten his mishaps of the night before, found him- 
self rudely awakened to a threatening reality. 

'" Venerable father of Agricola!" he said, with a smile 
that strongly resembled a grimace, however, " I have no 
farther need of your services, and having three articles to 
write — " 

" Very well, very well, monsieur; very well, citizen, I 
will now give my attention to other duties, "replied the 
pompous porter, no whit disconcerted. " If the aristocrats 
call again what must I say to them?" 

" Tell' them I'm not at home," answered Valnoir, 
promptly. " Taupier is the only person I want to see to- 
day." 
^" Very well, monsieur; very well, citizen;" grumbled 



yt* THE KED BAND. 

Bourigaard. " Citizen Taupier is a true patriot, and one 
can not fail to profit by his society." 

The journalist, on being left alone, lighted a pipe, and 
stretched himself out upon the sofa. 

" What could that gypsy girl have meant?" he said to 
himself, drawing the paper, in which she accused him of 
murder, from his pocket. 

He read the words over and over again, without gaining 
any insight into their real significance, however. 

" My accomplice!" he muttered. " It must be Taupier 
that she refers to; but it seems to me that though I had 
the misfortune to kill my man I at least killed him in a 
perfectly fair way. Podensac will certainly testify to that 
fact, if necessary. And she prates about murder, and this 
fool of a lieutenant seems to believe her. Bah! I am cer- 
tainly even more of a fool to trouble myself about the mat- 
ter. The girl is mad, unquestionably, and as for this other 
duel the lieutenant seems resolved to force upon me, I cer- 
tainly defy him to find any seconds. ' ' 

Satisfied by this reassuring reasoning, Valnoir ro.se, and 
began to collect his writing materials. 

He had rather neglected his duties as editor-in-chief of 
the " Serpenteau " for the past twenty-four hours, and he 
felt the need of working off his ill-humor by annihilating 
some political opponent. 

But he had scarcely penned a dozen lines before he dis- 
covered that insults did not flow from his pen as freely as 
usual; the bewitching face of Bose came between him and 
the venomous words he was putting upon paper, and he 
finally abandoned a rather labored tirade to reflect upon 
her dinner of the evening before, and her singular 
guests. 

He was thus engaged when the angular form of Taupier 
suddenly appeared before him. 

" So here you are!" he exclaimed, delighted at this 
diversion. " I did not expect to see you so soon. " 



THE RED BAND. 9? 

" Thanks!" growled Taupier, who did not seem to be in 
the best of humor. 

" Come, come, my friend, don't be sulky. Sit down 
and tell me if there was auy increase in the circulation of 
our paper yesterday. " 

" No, nor will there be until the ' Serpenteau ' comes 
boldly out as the exponent of socialism." 

" Say rather of the fusionists," corrected Valnoir, laugh- 
ing. " What do you think of that clown's theories?' 

" I came here to talk that very matter over with you. 
You are a very clever writer, and your style is remarkably 
forcible and convincing, unquestionably, but you are the 
veriest greenhorn in politics, and I came here to-day to ask 
you again if you would not unite with us — " 

"With us — the hunchbacks of Paris?" asked Valnoir, 
insolently. 

" With us — the founders of the ' Society of the Moon with 
the Teeth,' " continued Taupier, ignoring the taunt. 

This time the editor-in-chief burst into a loud laugh, and 
clapped his hands boisterously. 

" Before I decide do me the favor to explain this puz- 
zle," he said, at last, handing the hunchback the scrap of 
paper picked up the night before. 

Taupier perused it carefully, though at first his face ex- 
pressed the astonishment of a man who finds himself sud- 
denly confronted by some undecipherable hieroglyphics. 

" Well?" he asked, coldly. 

" Well, this scrap of writing brands us both as assassins. 
I am the man mentioned in the note; you are the accom- 
plice, and the murdered man is my antagonist in the duel 
at Saint Germain, of course." 

This explanation made the imperturbable hunchback 
change color. 

"Where did this paper come from?" he inquired, with 

undisguised alarm. 

.- " It would take too long to explain fully, but this much 
i 



98 



THE HE» BAND. 



I will say: It was handed, in my presence, to Monsieur de 
Saint Senier, a lieutenant in the Garde Mobile, and a 
cousin of the dead man, by a sort of fortune-teller con- 
nected with your friend Pilevert's traveling company." 

" She, too!" muttered Taupier. 

" Why do you say that?" asked Valnoir. " Can it be 
that they, too, suspect me of such a dastardly crime?" 

" Perhaps so,*' replied the hunchback, after a silence. 

" Indeed!" exclaimed the exasperated journalist. " And 
you take it in this fashion, you whom these people regard 
as an accomplice! I, for my part, assure you that I have 
no intention of allowing myself to be thus insulted by 
scoundrels of this stamp, and if you desert me I shall cer- 
tainly make it my business to vindicate myself. " 

"Who told you that I had any intention of deserting 
you? and how can I give you any advice when you will not 
even tell me what has occurred?" 

" I have told you enough, but here is the whole story in 
a nutshell: I met the gypsy girl, last night, in the street, and 
was fool enough to follow her. She jumped into the river io 
get rid of me, and I very narrowly escaped drowning in my 
efforts to rescue her. We both finally fell into Saint Sehier's 
hands. He, with his men, was guarding one of the out- 
posts. He tried to compel me to fight with him, and I was 
about to do so when the Prussians attacked the post." 

" And you succeeded in making your escape?" 

" Yes, but not until after the girl had given the lieuten- 
ant the scrap of writing I just showed you. She can not 
talk, but she can write, as you see. What do you think of 
the situation now?" 

" I think that both the officer and the deaf and dumb 
girl are now on their way to Prussia, for our reporter told 
me this morning that all the men on guard at that point 
had been captured. " 

" You are very much mistaken, then, for Saint Senier's 
seconds called on me a few hours ago. " 



THE KED BANC. 99 

" Did you see them?" 

" No, I was asleep, but they told Bourignard that they 
would call again/' 

" They mustn't find you at home when they do. " 

"Upon my word! one would suppose that you really 
attached some importance to this simpleton's absurd accu- 
sation. This is the way you would answer if we had really 
murdered that naval officer. " 

" If I were accused of having Stolen the towers of Notre 
Dame I should flee without loss of time," said the hunch- 
back, sententiously. 

" Taupier, it strikes me that you are the biggest fool I 
ever sa w," snarled the editor-in-chief, beginning to stride 
up and down the smoking-room in a towering rage. 

" Do you suppose I regard it as any laughing matter 
when I find that the thing has been discovered?" responded 
Taupier. 

Valnoir sprung upon the speaker, and seizing him 
roughly hy the collar, exclaimed : 

" I always knew that you were a coward, but I am made 
of different stuff, I tell you, and I am afraid of no one. 
Do you understand me? I am afraid of nO one, for though 
I killed Monsieur de Saint Senier, I killed him fairly." 

"Are you sure of that?" queried the hunchback, with a 
malevolent grin. 

Valnoir retreated a step, and turned as pale as death. 
, " Wretch, what do you mean?" he stammered. 

"I mean that the girl, is right, and that you had better 
unite with me in devising some way to avert the danger 
that threatens us instead of flying into a passion. " 

" But you must have misunderstood her. You can not 
have read this infamous charge." 

" On the contrary, I can repeat the words by heart; and 
I say again that what she has written is only the truth. 
You murdered Monsieur de Saint Senier, and I am your 
accomplice. " 



100 



THE RED BAND. 



Valnoir passed his hand over his forehead like a man 
who is endeavoring to collect his wandering thoughts. He 
was beginning to believe that the hunchback had suddenly 
gone mad, for his tone was too serious to convey any im- 
pression of jesting. 

" So be it!" he exclaimed, with a forced laugh. " I as- 
sassinated Monsieur de Saint Senier, without knowing it. 
I am Valnoir, or the Unconscious Criminal — a fine title 
that for a melodrama. But I should really like to hear 
some of the particulars of my crime." 

" The whole affair can be easily explained/ ' replied the 
hunchback, with a coolness that froze the blood of the 
editor-in-chief. " You were to fight with a man who was 
a dead shot, and who was to have the privilege of firing 
fii*3t. According to all human probabilities,^you were a 
dead man. I wanted to equalize your chances, that is all. " 

" I — I don't understand you/' stammered Valnoir, who 
was beginning to comprehend at least a part of the truth. 

" You will understand very soon. I have no intention 
of concealing anything from you, so I tell you plainly that 
I was very anxious to save your life, and that I concocted a 
little plot to protect you from a catastrophe which seemed 
only too probable. Had I hesitated, your presentiments and 
your nervousness at the time of the duel would have decided 
me. One aims badly when one has been digging up the earth 
to— you know what — and still worse when one is troubled 
with superstitious fancies. You spoke so sadly of your father, 
■who was shot in June, 1848, that you would doubtless have 
met with a similar fate if I had not taken my precautions." 

" What did you do?" demanded the now terrified jour- 
nalist. 

' ' In loading the pistols I placed a bullet in one and a 
blank cartridge in the other, and I so managed it that the 
naval officer chose the harmless weapon." 

"You villain!" exclaimed Valnoir, seizing the hunch- 
back by the throat. 



THE RED BAND. 101 

Taupier freed himself from the journalist's grasp with a 
vigor surprising in one of his physique, and hastily retreat- 
ed behind the table. 

" It is you, you alone who are guilty!" continued Val- 
noir, passionately. " I neither saw nor touched the pistols, 
and no one can accuse me of an infamous crime you com- 
mitted entirely of your own accord, and wifchoufmy knowl- 
edge." 

" Xo one but the gypsy girl, it seems." 

" But the girl is mistaken, as I will prove to her, for 
you, and you alone, shall bear the odium of your crime." 

" That is a very clever idea, but I think you will have 
some difficulty in separating our two cases. You have 
studied law, and you are familiar with the Latin axiom 
that says,*' The culprit is the person who profits by the 
crime,' and who, pray, was the person who profited by your 
adversary's death?" 

The argument was a convincing one. Valnoir dropped 
upon the sofa and buried his face in his hands. 

A long silence followed. 

"But, wretch, you are ruining me, and ruining yourself 
with me," murmured Valnoir, at last, in a voice hoarse 
with emotion. 

" Possibly," said Taupier, with an air of the utmost in- 
difference. 

" You can not have listened to what I told you or you 
must forget that your dastardly act is known, and that you 
did not even have the shrewdness to perform it in private. " 

"But how could I have foreseen that we were to be 
watched by a whole company of mountebanks?" cried the 
hunchback in the petulant tone of an artist who has just 
been informed of a serious flaw in his work. " I managed 
to get rid of the cousin, and even of Podensac before I be- 
gan to load the pistols, but I had no idea that a clump of 
bushes was serving as a screen for those miserable acro- 
bats." 



102 THE RED BAND. 

" So that young girl is not the only person who knows 
the truth?" 

" Well, no," replied Taupier, tranquilly. " There are 
at least three persons who afe acquainted with our 
eecret." 

He took care to emphasize the word our, but though 
Valnoir shuddered he had not the courage to protest. 

" It seems to me that you are becoming more reasona- 
ble, " continued the hunchback. " If you will listen to me 
only two minutes I feel sure that we shall come to a satis- 
factory understanding." 

Valnoir shook his head with an air that Taupier took for 
a threat. 

" Oh, I don't ask you to thank me or even to approve 
my course," he resumed, with wonderful audafity, " but 
now the thing is done, you must admit that we had better 
try to avert the consequences. As I told you before, we 
have three persons to fight against, and possibly four, as 
the girl has informed the cousin of the state of affairs." 

" Then the acrobat and his pupil also saw us — " 

" The acrobat, as you are pleased to style the honorable 
messenger of the last of the Charmieres, is conversant with 
all the details of the affair. He even has in his possession 
what magistrates would call an article of conviction, for he 
picked up the bullet I flung into the copse." 

A deep groan burst from the unfortunate journalist. 

" As to the philosopher, Alcindor," continued Taupier, 
" I am not sure that he condescended to descend from the 
heights of f usionism to take any note of this sublunary 
matter, but he was behind the bushes with his master, and 
it is more than probable that he saw my little maneuver as 
plainly as Pilevert did. " 

" Then we are- lost!" muttered Valnoir. 

" Nonsense! We have only four witnesses to sustain the 
charge — to speak in the language of the courts — and two 
of them will say nothing without my permission. " 



THE KED BAND. 103 



it ■ 



How is that?" inquired the editor-in-chief of the 
"Serpenteau," timidly. 

" It ought not to be difficult for you to guess. By plac- 
ing our paper at the service of .the new society, so happily 
styled the ' Moon with the Teeth,' I can be assured of the 
blind devotion of Hercules and his follower." 

" I will do nothing of the kind!'" cried Valnoir. " I ab- 
solutely refuse to support the absurd theories of those idiots. 
The paper wouldn't have a purchaser in a week." 

" Then I see no way of preventing them from telling all 
they know," retorted Taupier, coldly. " Besides, who 
said anything about supporting these doctrines with your 
pen. Do you imagine that the future members of the so- 
ciety will read your articles? There is a very good reason 
why the majority should refrain from doing so, for they 
have neglected to learn the alphabet." 

"T don't understand you." 

"Why, simpleton that you are! don't you know that 
your talent as a pamphlet-writer makes you a power — a 
power which they will be glad to use for the demolition of 
capitalist and employers and all in authority who would 
prevent the spread of fusionist ideas?" 

"Bat even if I should consent to dishonor myself to 
purchase the silence of these fools, we should still be at the 
mercy of that girl and Monsieur de Saint Senier!" 

" That is an entirely different matter, but I will promise 
to take charge of that, also, provided you will tell me all 
you know about the two persons in question. " 

" I have told you all I know." 

" So far as Monsieur de. Saint Senier is concerned/' con- 
tinued the hunchback, without paying any attention to the 
interruption, " he is not very dangerous, for even if the 
Prussians have not freed us from his unwelcome presence, 
he did not see what was done, and he can accuse us merely 
from hearsay. " 

" That is enough," murmured the journalist. 



104 THE RED BAND. 

" On the contrary, it amounts to nothing at all," retorted 
the hunchback, curtly. " The girl remains, however; and 
she can injure us very seriously if I don't take measures to 
prevent it. Where did you meet her last evening?" 

" Behind the Madeleine." 

"Alone?" 

" Yes, but it seemed to me that she had just left some 
one who drove away in a carriage, just, as I reached the 
spot." 

"A man?" 

" No, a lady, for I saw her put her head out of the win- 
dow, and wave the girl a farewell." 

" Was the lady in a nackney coach?" 

" Yes, in a hack drawn by a pair of gray horses, I recol- 
lect." 

" You didn't notice the number, I suppose?" 

" I didn't think of looking at that; besides, the vehicle 
was some distance off when I found myself face to face with 
the damsel." 

" That's a pity," muttered Taupier. " Just think of it, 
a tiny scrap of paper like this would tell us all we want to 
know," he continued, picking up a card that happened to 
be lying on the table. " But where did this come from?" 
he exclaimed, suddenly. 

" I have no idea," replied Valnoir, glancing at the bit 
of pasteboard the hunchback held out for his inspection. 

It was one of the cards that coachmen are obliged by law 
to give to the person .who hires their carriage, but it was so 
badly crumpled that the number was scarcely legible. In- 
deed, its appearance seemed to indicate that it had lain in 
water for some time." 

" Try to recollect if you didn't take a fiacre yesterday, 
and if this card didn't fall out of your pocket after your 
return." 

"On the contrary. lam sure that this card was not 
here this morning, for if it had been Bourignard, who has 



THE RED BAND. 105 

a perfect mania for cleaning up, would have taken it 
away. " 

"In that case you must have dropped it on the table 
without knowing it, when you showed me that fortune-tell- 
er's note." 

"That is possible." 

" It is absolutely certain. Do you recollect the girl's 
movements when she produced her formal charge against 

you?" 

" Perfectly. She drew it from her bosom, where it had 
been concealed, and reduced almost to a pulp by the water. 
The lieutenant barely glanced at it before he threw it on 
the table beside him, where I afterward found it and slipped 
it hastily into my pocket. " 

" And you didn't look at it again until just now?" 

"No." 

" Very well," exclaimed Taupier, triumphantly. " We 
have the clew now, for with the aid of this scrap of paste- 
board we shall have very little difficulty in ascertaining 
who the fortune-teller met back of the church. In fact, I 
have an idea that I know already." 

" You are much sharper than I am, then. " 

" Try to recollect if you did not see a lady of your ac- 
quaintance ascend the steps of the Madeleine. " 

"No; I do not." 

" I'll assist your memory a little. Your lady-love has 
better eyes than you have, and she took me into her con- 
fidence a little last evening. " 

" I am more and more in the dark." 

" Who could have gone so late to say her prayers except 
a devotee, and a grief-stricken devotee at that?" 

" Renee de Saint Senier!" exclaimed Valnoir, suddenly 
recollecting an incident that the adventures of the previous 
night had driven from his mind. 

" You have guessed at last. " 

" True; I did see her entering the church, " 



106 THE BED BAND. 

" At what hour?" 

" About sunset — some time before I met the gypsy." 

"You forget that these pious aristocrats spend a long 
time at their devotions. -Intrust this -card hearing -the 
number 5724 to me. By means of this talisman, and the 
exertions of a certain Citizen Frapillon, man of affairs, and 
treasurer of the ' Serpenteau/ I shall learn in three days 
all I wish to know." 

" But if these persons were hiding in the bushes they 
must also have seen — " 

" The little job we performed at the foot of the oak tree? 
I am not sure, but it is very probable. Still, so long as the 
Pxussians hold Saint Germain I think we have no cause for 
uneasiness. Once more, now, let me ask you to intrust 
this card to me, and give me permission to begin with the 
assistance of our faithful Frapillon.'-' 
,_ "So be it." 

" As for the great society," continued the hunchback, 
" we will decide upon the by-laws to-morrow evening, at 
the celebrated Cafe Kat-Mort, and I hope you will honor us 
with your presence. " 

" Don't count upon me. I am by no means sure that I 
shall be at liberty to-morrow evening." 

" Oh, you can ask Citizen Charmiere to excuse you from 
attendance upon her for one evening, " cried the irrepressi- 
ble hunchback, turning toward the door, " and now I must 
hasten to Frapillon to guard your precious life from the 
fury of a country squire, ingrate!" 

In another moment Valnoir found himself once more 
alone with his own thoughts, which were much less cheer- 
ful than usual. 

The revelation just made by the unscrupulous Taupier 
weighed heavily upon his conscience, and he asked himself 
if it would not be advisable to sever all connection with this 
scoundrel, and tell M. de Saint Senier all. 
.. It was an honest and commendable impulse, and "at any 



THE BED BAND. 107 

other time the journalist would probably have followed it; 
but since Mile, de Charmiere had entered his life, the 
recollection of his enchantress was ever interposing between 
his resolutions and his acts. 

" I had better consult Kose," he invariably said to him- 
self, and this case proved no exception to the rule, so he 
lighted a cigar to kill time until the dinner-homy and 
seated himself in an arm-chair to think over his .late ad- 
ventures. 

His conversation with Taupier had been a very long one, 
and the sun was already gilding with its last rays the tops 
of the trees that adorned the terrace. Through the 
branches of the clematis, which covered the lattice, and 
which Bourignard did not disdain to water twice a day, 
Valnoir could see quite a long stretch of tuuf that was the 
favorite rendezvous of all the sparrows in the neighborhood. 

This grass plot, which was rarely cut, surrounded a cot- 
tage or sort Of chalet, which was probably once a sort of 
appendage to a large mansion, which had been demolished 
to make way for houses of a more profitable kind. 

The windows of this cottage had never been opened be- 
fore, at least, not to the knowledge of the journalist, who 
had always supposed it unoccupied. 

But this evening, strange to say, the shutters in the 
lower story were all open, and though no one was visible 
on the piazza that encircled the house, the sunlight was 
streaming straight in through the open window of one of 
the apartments. 

At the end of this room stood a large white curtained 
bed, at the foot of which Valnoir could plainly distinguish 
the figure of a kneeling woman. This woman was dressed 
in black, and her mourning costume harmonized perfectly 
with her attitude, for she seemed to be praying at the bed- 
side of a dead person. Her back was turned toward Val- 
noir, who could judge of her age only by her figure, which 
was apparently that of a young person. As for her pray- 



108 



THE BED BAND. 



ers, it was very difficult to divine for whom they were ut- 
tered, as the white curtains might cover a bier, or surround 
the bed of a sick person. The latter supposition, however, 
seemed most plausible, as a death in the cottage would in- 
evitably have caused sufficient coming and going to attract 
the attention of the neighbors. 

His late adventures were fast converting the rather skep- 
tical journalist into a firm believer in the marvelous, and 
with Taupier's revelations still floating through his brain, 
it was enough for him to see a lady clad in mourning to re- 
mind him of Mile, de Saint Senier, though what connection 
could there possibly be between the sister of his adversary, 
a denizen of the Faubourg Saint Germain, and the inmate 
of a lonely cottage in this unfashionable part of the city. 

Valnoir knew that she had spent the summer at Maisons- 
Laffite, at the house of an aunt, who occupied in winter a 
charming little house on the Eue d'Anjou Saint Honoree. 

But the editor of the ' ' Serpenteau, " though he dismissed 
the idea as improbable, remained at his post of observation 
until the daylight faded, and the interior of the apartment 
became lost in shadow. The white draperies were still visi- 
ble, it is true, but the form of the kneeling woman could 
no longer be distinguished. 

" She will be sure to light a candle presently, and I can 
then get a good look at the face of this despairing beauty," 
Valnoir said to himself. 

He was aroused from these reflections by the entrance of 
the majestic Bourignard with the evening papers. 

" The soldier has been here again, sir," said the citizen 
concierge, "but this time I told him that you had not been 
home since yesterday morning, and that I was beginning to 
feel very anxious about you." 

" "Very good, Father Bourignard, very good. You have 
a fertile imagination. And what did this provincial warrior 



say?" 



He did not seem very much surprised ; indeed, I heard 



THE RED BANth 109 

him remark in a whisper aside to his companion, ' It is 
quite probable that he never will return/ whereupon the 
other replied: ' So much the better.' "' 

" Are you sure that is what they said?" cried Valnoir, 
eagerly. 

" Perfectly sure, as sure as I am of knowing the Decla- 
ration of Independence by heart." 

" Bourignard, you are a model concierge, and I'll give 
you tickets for the Varietes this week." 

" If it's all the same to you, sir, I would rather have 
two tickets to the cafe concert to hear Madame Bordas sing 
the ' Canaille. ' My son Agricola prefers this hymn to any 
frivolous play. " 

" You shall have your tickets. By the way, Bourignard, 
the cottage opposite is occupied, is it not?" 

" I can not say, for politics engross my attention to such 
an extent that I haven't timo to notice what is going on in 
the neighborhood. Besides, the entrance to the cottage is 
on the Rue de Laval. I have seen no one about the house, 
however." 

"I'm probably mistaken, then," remarked Valnoir, 
carelessly, for he did not care to take his porter into his 
confidence. 

As soon as he found himself once more alone, he returned 
to his post of observation, but he had the disappointment 
of finding that the window had been closed during his con- 
versation with his porter, and he could not discern the faint- 
est ray of light through the shutters. 

The curtain had fallen just as the play was becoming in- 
teresting, but Valnoir found some consolation in what 
Bourignard had just told him. 

" They think I have been wounded or taken prisoner, 
and I am well rid of them, at least for a few days. Before 
Saint Senier becomes undeceived, I shall have time to take 
my precautions, for he doesn't spend much time in read- 
ing the papers, I'll wager. " 



110 THE £ED BAND. 

This reminded him to glance over the papers the con* 
cierge had just brought in. The skirmish of the night ber 
fore had not passed unnoticed of course. Indeed, in the 
first paper he opened, he found a long account of the noc- 
turnal combat, to which the narrator had not failed to give 
colossal proportfons. 

The enemy had been vigorously repulsed, and had re- 
crossed the Seine, taking many dead and wounded with 
them. Unfortunately, the lieutenant in command of the 
most advanced outpost was missing, and was generally 
supposed to have paid with his life the penalty of having 
allowed himself to be taken unawares. 

All this was, of coarse, well calculated, to reassure 
him. 

" I believe I shall get safely out of this infernal scrape, 
after all," he muttered. " I see no mention made of the 
gypsy girl, so she must have disappeared, as well as Saint 
Senier, I suppose. I shall allow Taupier to arrange mat- 
ters with the acrobat and his pupil, and before long I'll 
devise some way of .getting rid of him, for this hunchback 
is really becoming too dangerous. " 

The only ominous indication was the visit of the two 
soldiers, but Valnoir easily persuaded himself that they had 
come merely for news of their comrade and friend, the lieu- 
tenant. 

After having thus arranged matters to his satisfaction, 
Valnoir's spirits revived, and he decided to dress for even- 
ing, and then go and dine at a neighboring restaurant. He 
was about to leave the smoking-room with this intention, 
when the sound of a bell again attracted his attention to 
the neighboring garden. 

"Hark!" he muttered, "that would seem to indicate 
that they have visitors at the mysterious cottage. " 

The ring, which was twice repeated, seemed to come from 
the entrance on the Kue de Laval, as Bourignard had said, 
so it was more than likely that the visitor, whoever he 



THE fcED BAND. Ill 

might be, would soon appear on the grass-plot back of the 
house. 

Valnoir blew out his candle and waited. 

His perseverance was rewarded. 

He had not waited five minutes when two human forms 
rounded the corner of the house. The evening was too 
dark to enable him to distinguish the sex of the persons 
who were slowly crossing the grass about fifty yards from 
him, but he could see that a very animated conversation 
was going on between them, for they paused from time to 
time, and gesticulated excitedly. Valnoir even thought 
that one of them frequently pointed up to the windows of 
the cottage, and from this fact he came to the conclusion 
that the room with the white-draped bed was under discus- 
sion. 

The wind, which was quite strong, prevented their voices 
from reaching the terrace, to the great annoyance of the si- 
lent spectator of this scene. 

"I am a simpleton to persist thus," thought the jour- 
nalist. " I will make some inquiries on the Rue de Laval 
to-morrow, and probably what I learn will destroy all my 
curiosity on the subject. " 

Just as he was on the point of rising, he perceived that 
the promenaders had changed their course, and were grad- 
ually approaching the terrace. 

" Oh, well," he said to himself, " I might as well see 
this thing out, now I am here. I shall perhaps succeed in 
finding out a little more about my neighbors, and after I 
have I'll go to dinner." 

The couple advanced very slowly, by reason of frequent 
halts that greatly retarded their progress, and Valnoir was 
still unable to distinguish a word. 

His heart throbbed violently, though he could not imag- 
ine why, and he felt himself chained to the spot by a 
strange spell he could not understand. 

His curiosity seemed likely to be satisfied, for the mys- 



112 THE RED BAND. 

terious promenaders finally came near enough for their 
voices to be overheard, but just then a loud burst of laugh- 
ter resounded behind him. 

" What the devil are you doing there?" cried the intol- 
erable Taupier, who had just stolen into the room on tip- 
toe. 

Before Valnoir had time to turn, the two persons he had 
been watching disappeared. 



CHAPTER V. 

The office of J. B. Frapillon was in the third story of a 
house on the Rue Cadet. 

The building, which consisted for the most part of two 
immense wings, separated by a long court-yard, was a ver- 
itable phalanstery. The lower floor was occupied by a wine- 
merchant, a dealer in musical instruments, and a book- 
seller. 

The story above was leased by a decorator, and a so-called 
banker — though his real business consisted in loaning 
money at unlawful rates of interest to the small shop- 
keepers in the neighborhood — a dress-maker, and a manu- 
facturer of artificial gems. 

The apartments of J. B. Frapillon — who by the way was 
held in high esteem by the concierge on account of the 
handsome gratuity with which he always accompanied the 
payment of his quarter's rent — consisted of an ante-cham- 
ber, a very neat and primly furnished salon, a smaller 
room of similar aspect adjoining it, and several other apart- 
ments reserved for the personal use of the lessee. 

J. B. Frapillon seemed to be of the opinion that a man's 
private life should be considered sacred, for the public never 
penetrated beyond the three communicating rooms first 
mentioned, which were separated from the other apart- 
ments by a passage-way to which one gained access by a 



THE RED BAND. 113 

door directly opposite the public entrance, and into which 
one was admitted only by the proprietor himself. 

One lovely autumn morning, the proprietor had evidently 
intrusted to his one clerk the task of receiving his ordinary 
clients, for he was immured in the most secluded corner 
of his private apartments giving an audience to a beautiful 
and elegantly dressed lady; no other, in fact, than Mile. 
Eose de Charmiere. 

This apartment, from which the vulgar herd was rigor- 
ously excluded, was an oval room, whose adornments re- 
called the many vicissitudes of J. B. Trapillon's eventful life. 

The walls were absolutely concealed from sight by a host 
of richly framed pictures and oijets d'art, which had been 
picked up at auction sales, or taken as security for loans. 
There were no less than five chandeliers hanging from the 
ceiling, four clocks upon the mantel and consoles, and any 
quantity of silverware was upon the cabinets and side- 
boards; while upon the floor lay tile after file of news- 
papers, and upon an immense desk several enormous cop- 
per-bound registers. 

In this strange medley of heterogeneous articles, the only 
one that gave any clew to the personal tastes and char- 
acter of the proprietor was a portrait of Hebert, in a wal- 
nut frame, surmounted with a crown of oak leaves. 

The admirer of this celebrated communist of 1793 was a 
man about forty years of age, tall, stout, and adorned, in 
spite of his peaceable profession, with a reddish beard that 
would have done honor to a pioneer. 

Sis mouth was large, the lips thin, the nose pointed, and 
the forehead rather low, despite the premature baldness 
that doubled its real dimensions. The small but keen and 
intelligent eyes gazed out at you from behind a pair of vsry 
slender steel-bowed spectacles. 

There was in the face a mixture of craftiness and au- 
dacity, the cunning of a wily speculator, and the boldness 
of an unscrupulous scoundrel. 



114 THE RED BAND. 

Mile.- de Charmiere, who was sitting opposite him, wore 
the air of a great lady who condescends to ask a favor with- 
out losing any of her superiority. She had just entered, 
and was .toying, with the papers strewn over the desk like a 
woman .who is. inclined to regard business, matters in much 
the same light as an order for a pair of shoes. 

" Has anything new happened, my lady?" inquired the 
man with the spectacles. " You must be in great need of 
my services to call so early in the morning. " 

" You are right. I want to speak to you about Val- 
noir." 

"I haven't seen him for three days; but the paper is 
prospering wonderfully. " 

" Then you think I have made a good investment?" 

"Excellent. You will realize at least twenty per cent. 
upon it, besides being able to draw out your money at any 
time." 

" You have said nothing to Valnoir, I hope?" 
"~ " For what do you take me? Valnoir still thinks that 
the person who advanced the money is an American. " 

" I am glad of it. That, however, is not the matter 
about which I desire your advice and assistance." 

" I am at your orders, as you know very well." 

Mile, de Charmiere toyed with the handle of her parasol, 
and appeared loath to speak. 

tf Is it really such a serious matter?" inquired the man 
of affairs, not accustomed to see his client embarrassed. 

" MydearFrapillon, there is some one in my way," Rose 
said at last, in the resolute tone of a person who has just 
fully decided upon a course of action. 

" Indeed! is it Taupierthat troubles you?" 

" Taupier? Well, yes; but not so much as another 
person/' 

" Who can it be, then?" 

" A brother of mine," replied the lady, after a silence. 
.« " A brother! I thought you had no relatives? " 



T5E RED BAND. 115 

" This is the only one I have left, and he is one too 
many." 

" And this long-lost brother returns for the express pur- 
pose of demanding an allowance to live upon, I suppose?" 

" If that were all, I could get Off 'with an expenditure of 
two or three thousand francs, and so shouldn't mind it 
much." 

" Oh, your brother is a shrewd fellow, then. It seems 
to run in the blood." 

" Don't jest, if you please. He is in possession of a se- 
cret which may ruin Valnoir, me, you, and the paper." 

J. B. Frapillon turned pale and adjusted his spectacles as 
if to conceal his agitation. He was about to speak, how- 
ever, when the electric bell sounded. 

"What is that?" inquired Mile, de Charmi&re. 

" Nothing. My clerk informs me of the arrival of a 
client, that is all." 

" Go and see him* and then come back again. " 

" That is not necessary. He will wait. Tell me your 
story, my dear madame." 

" I warn you that it will be a long one." 

" I hope so, for you know my theory. When I am play- 
ing a game, I want to know all the. cards in advance." 

"I have no wish to conceal mine from you. As I re- 
marked before, there is a secret, and this secret is con- 
nected with Valnoir." 

" Do you know what it is?" 

*'■ Not yet. I only know that it is in some way connected 
with the duel in which Charles had the misfortune to kill 
Monsieur de Saint Senier." 

" All this is very vague, and I fail to see what possible 
connection there can be — " 

" So do L If I did, I should not be obliged to consult 
you," retorted Mile, de Charmiere, dryly; " but if you had 
not interrupted me so often, you would have heard all I 
know before this time." 



116 THE RED BAND. 

" Very true. Time is money, as the English say." 

"Well/' resumed the lady, rather impatiently, "this 
brother whom I have not seen for years returns to Paris 
just when I am least expecting him. To tell the truth, I 
thought he was dead, and I confess that I was not incon- 
solable. My brother has never done anything but endanger 
my prospects in life. Would you believe it, in spite of all 
I have done to assist him, he has fallen so low as to run 
about from one country fair to another, giving perform- 
ances, and to come to Paris bringing a clown in his train. 
In fact, he presented himself at my house in this honorable 
company." 

" How does it happen that you have been unable to get 
rid of these people?" 

" I didn't wish to do so until I found out their secret. 
Indeed, I invited them to dinner and tried my best to make 
my brother talk, but though I got him as drunk as he 
could well be, I failed to extort any information of impor- 
tance from him. " 

" That is a pity, for your idea was an excellent 
one. ' ' 

" Perhaps I should have accomplished my object, but 
unfortunately Valnoir had taken it into his head to dine 
with me, and seeing that I knew him my brother became 
suspicious." 

" Oh, ho! that certainly complicates matters. Well, 
what did Valnoir seem to think of the meeting?" 

"I don't know, but he certainly did not appear at all 
embarrassed. " 

" That would seem to indicate that he had no idea that 
hia secret was known," Frapillon remarked, sagely. 

"It is needless to say that I introduced my guest as a 
stranger who had come to bring me news of an exiled 
brother." 

" A very clever idea' that* But speaking of the secret, 
have you any idea what it is about?" 



THE HED BAND. 117 

"It is evidently connected with something that must 
have occurred in the forest of Saint Germain. And right 
here I will admit, my friend, that in spite of my influence 
over Valnoir there is a part of his life that I know nothing 
about. Several times he has absented himself without any 
apparent cause, and I know that in every case it was to pay 
a visit to Saint Germain." 

" The mystery is there evidently, and it is at Saint 
Germain that we must seek a solution of it, but we can not 
do that until the siege is over." 

" And for that reason I have thought of another plan," 
remarked Mile, de Charmiere. 

" Let me hear it, for plans seem to be quite the order of 
the day now." 

" In the first place, I base some hopes upon a scheme of 
Taupier's, who is no favorite with me, as you know." 

"My dear lady," said the man of affairs, slowly, "it 
would be a great pleasure to me to serve you, but before I 
make any attempts in that direction I must know exactly 
where I stand. It is of the utmost importance that we 
should understand each other fully. " 

" "What do you mean?" 

"I will explain my meaning more clearly. If your 
brother intends to make use of this secret it is for the pur- 
pose of blackmail, I suppose?" 

"Probably." 

" And this, of course, will be very prejudicial to the in- 
terests of Valnoir, who is your friend and mine. " 

"Of course." 

4 ' Very well. Do you propose to take sides with him or 
with your brother?" 

On hearing this plain question Mile, de Charmiere could 
not help blushing, especially as the agent was gazing at her 
intently over his spectacles as if resolved to read her every 
thought. 
_. " How can you suppose that 1 would hesitate between 



118 THE RED BAND. 

the man I love and a brother who has been the bane of my 
life?" she asked, hypocritically, at last. 

"Very well; then I am to take measures to worst your 
brother in his efforts/' replied J. B. Frapillon, quietly; 
" By the way, what does this brother call himself?" 

" Antoine Pilevert." 

The electric bell resounded again, but this time the ring- 
ing continued several seconds, and this was the signal agreed 
upon as the announcement of an important visit. 

" Will you allow me to see what is wanted?" inquired 
Frapillon. 

"Certainly." 

The gentleman availed himself of the permission, leaving 
Eose to wonder if she had not made a mistake in intrusting 
the management of the affair to him. Her confidence in 
his integrity was not implicit by -any means, and his: per- 
fidious suggestions gave her abundant food for reflection. 

"He is quite capable of doing the very thing he sug- 
gested to me himself," she thought. " What is there to 
prevent him from -forming an alliance with my brother? I 
will certainly see Antoine again this evening, and try to- get 
the truth out of him before I commit myself with Fra- 
pillon." 

These reflections were interrupted by the stealthy entrance 
of the agent. 

" It is he!" he said, softly, placing his finger on his lip. 
[ "Who?" 

" Your brother; Monsieur Antoine Pilevert in person." 

" Already!" exclaimed Eose, not a little annoyed. 

" Do you want me to send him away?" 

" Oh, no; but I am anxious to know the result of the 
interview as soon as possible, and as I happen to be here — " 

" You would like to remain. Do so, by all means." 

" But it would not do for him to see me. " 

" He won't see you. You need have no fears of that. 
Just come with me." 



THE RED BAND. 119 

The proposal was certainly a tempting one, especially as 
it would insure her against any possibility of treachery Oh 
the part of her factotum, but on the other hand the invita- 
tion was so unexpected that she hesitated to accept It for 
fear of falling into a trap. 

"Is it pdssible 'that you have trap-doors here, as at a 
theater?" 6he asked, suspiciously. 

" Oh, no; but opening out of my private office there is a 
large closet in which one can hear - and see what passes 
there, that is all. " 

" It is certainly well for a person to know that," replied 
Mile, de Charmiere, laughing. " When you receive me in 
the office in question I shall take good care to satisfy my- 
self that the closet is empty. " 

" Oh, our interviews always take place in the room where 
we are now, and where we have no listeners, I assure you." 

'"* But what is the use of this system of espionage, if you 
please?" ■ - 

"It is a part of my business. I often act as a sort of 
private detective, as you are aware, and this is an excellent 
way of furnishing clients with information first-hand. " . 

" It is certainly a very ingenious way. " 

" But one that I seldom use, for it is not always easy to 
lure the game into the trap, so as a general thing I use 
the hiding-place merely to obtain a look at any strangers 
who may wish to see me. It was in this way that I just 
got a look at your brother, whom, by the way, I should 
have recognized even if my clerk had not handed me his 
card." 

" What do you think of him?" 

" He seemed to be in a great hurry, and in the worst of 
humor, for he was tramping about the office, gesticulating 
excitedly, and muttering to himself. I think it would not 
be prudent for me to keep him waiting much longer. " 

"I am ready." 

Frapillon opened a door, and taking his fair client 'by 



120 THE EED BAND, 

the hand, led her through a long passage way, the floor of 
which was covered with a thick soft carpet that deadened 
the sound of their footsteps. 

" Here it is," he whispered, lifting a portiere. 

Two luminous spots gleamed in front of them, and Rose 
instantly mistrusted that the light came through two holes 
bored in the partition. 

Her guide seated her in an arm-chair, and placed an eye 
to one of the openings, but no sooner had he done so than 
he exclaimed: 

" Why! he has gone! I can't understand it," he whis- 
pered, turning to his client. ' ' He must have become im- 
patient. But I am sure that he is talking with the clerk 
in the outer office, and I will go and bring him back." 

" But what if you should not overtake him?" 

" In that case I will return immediately and release 
you. " 

Hastening back to his office, Frapillon found that his 
visitor had disappeared without leaving any other trace of 
his presence than a cigar thrown lighted upon the floor, as 
if to show his impatience, and he was about to rush after 
the fugitive when the door was burst open, and to his in- 
tense surprise he saw Pilevert enter, escorted, or rather 
pushed forward, by Taupier. 

" Come, come, my good fellow, one can not desert one's 
friends like that," cried the hunchback. 

" But I tell you that I'm in a hurry," growled the acro- 
bat. " Alcindor is waiting for me. " 

" Let him wait, then. Come, let me introduce you to 
the pearl of cashiers, and the most democratic of bankers, 
Frapillon!" 

That gentleman did not seem at all elated by Taupier's 
compliments; in fact, this invasion of his cabinet annoyed 
him greatly, especially as it disarranged all his plans, and 
he was already endeavoring to devise some pretext for 
shortening the interview. 



THE IiED BAND. 121 

Pilevert appeared equally embarrassed and annoyed. 

Encountered upon the staircase just as he was going 
away, greatly out of humor at having been obliged to wait 
so long, he had been dragged back by Taupier; but though 
unable to prevent this, Pilevert was equally determined 
not to disclose Ins business in the presence of witnesses. 

Of course he had not the slightest suspicion that his sis- 
ter, too, was watching and listening; but Taupier 's pres- 
ence was sufficient to seal his lips. 

" Come, what do you want, rampart of Avail on?" con- 
tinued the incorrigible jester. " Did you come to secure 
an engagement for the Toulouse Circus, or for the Alcazar 
at Lyons? But no, I forgot. Politics are engrossing your 
attention now, and you are to be henceforth the mainstay 
of the ' Serpenteau.' Now speak and make known your 
wishes. My friend Frapillon is a universal genius, Is it 
information in regard to any particular person that you are 
seeking?" 

" I don't know that it's any of your business," growled 
Pilevert. 

" You are angry, I see. I know what to think now. It 
is information that you are after, and you are afraid to 
open your heart before me. You make a great mistake. I 
am your friend, and incapable of betraying your secrets. 
Do you want me to prove it? I will by telling you that I 
came for a similar purpose, and I will set you an example 
of confidence by disclosing my errand in your presence. " 

" And I am quite at your service," hastily interposed 
Frapillon, anxious to prevent the acrobat from explaining 
before Taupier. 

" Well, here," began the hunchback, " is a card bearing 
the number 5724. I am anxious to find the coachman 
who gave this card last Wednesday evening, near the Made- 
leine, to a young woman in a red dress, and to learn where 
he took another lady dressed in black. " 

Pdevert had suddenly become very attentive, and his 



183 THE RED BAND. 

eager expression did not escape Taupier, who instantly ex- 
claimed: 

"Why, now! think of it, Pilevert is the "very person to 
assist us, as one of the parties I refer to is a young woman 
he knows intimately. I am ialking, old fellow, about your 
somnambulist, the deaf and dumb girl you had with you at 
Saint Germain."' 

" Eegina!" exclaimed the acrobat, "that good-for-noth- 
ing hussy!" 

" Whew! it would seem that you no longer cherish her 
in your heart of hearts!" 

" She has run away!" replied Pilevert, unable to restrain 
his wrath any longer. "She has deserted me! — a second 
father, who had cared for her for five long years." 

" And you have no idea where she is?" 

"Not the slightest, but if I ever find her — " 

" You shall find her, Pilevert, I'll answer for that, When 
and where did she leave your" 

" After that accursed duel I left her at Eueil with the 
wagon and the dead man, while I went ahead to recon- 
noiter and find out what chance we had of getting to Paris. 
When I returned I found only the empty wagon." 

" Well, now you have stated your case, suppose you 
allow me to state mire. Frapillon, Valnoir and I have a 
dangerous enemy in the sister of the officer whose career was 
so abruptly terminated at Saint Germain, and also in an- 
other, Saint Senier — the cousin of the victim. Both these 
persons are our mortal enemies; they are spreading all. sorts 
of shameful reports in relation to us, and they have set the 
friend of our worthy Pilevert against us unquestionably. 
The cousin has just been captured by the Prussians, 
but his sister, assisted by the girl in red, is plotting to de- 
stroy us, and as in union there is strength, I propose that 
the friends of the 'Serpenteau' here and how form an 
offensive and defensive alliance against these foes." 

" You can count upon me," replied Frapillon, " but I 



THE RED BAND. 133 

should like to hear a few more particulars before beginning 
my search." 

" You shall have them." 

" Then the carriage will soon be found. It will proba- 
bly take a little longer to find the ladies. " 

" How much time do you want?" 

"A fortnight. If, I don't finish the job by that time 
I'll abandon it forever." 

"A [fortnight then! So be it, citizen. The league 
against the enemies of the ' Serpenteau ' is formed," added 
the hunchback, in a solemn tone. 



CHAPTER VI. 

October came, and . in proportion as the. autumn ad- 
vanced the radiant hopes that had brightened the early dis- 
asters of- the unfortunate war of 1870 grew dim. 

The siege of Paris was entering upon its second stage, 
that in which the population began to realize that the or- 
deal would be a long one, and that they must make up 
their minds to endure many privations. 

Provisions were still to be had, and the temperature was 
still endurable, but one already foresaw the near approach 
of those two formidable Prussian auxiliaries, cold and fam- 
ine. 

The city no longer wore the animated and almost joyous 
air that immediately followed its investiture. The singing 
of patriotic songs had ceased; the stores closed early, car- 
riages were becoming more rare, while in the streets, re- 
moved from the heart of the town, going and coming ceased 
almost entirely at nightfall. 

On one particular evening the capital appeared even more 
gloomy and dull than usual. The cannon had thundered 
all day, and a sortie attempted by the troops had been re- 
pulsed. 



124 THE BED BAND. 

The news of this failure had spread quickly through the 
town, and upon every face one saw an expression of disap- 
pointment. 

Most of the pedestrians strode gloomily along with heads 
bowed upon their breast*, and if a group formed on the pave- 
ment or upon a threshold it was only to talk in the sub- 
dued tones one uses in a sick-room. 

There was mourning in the air, and some portions of the 
town had really assumed a most lugubrious aspect. 

The Eue des Martyrs, usually so animated, had become 
silent, and in the dim light of the street-lamps only an oc- 
casional form could be seen gliding along in the shadow of 
the houses. 

Near the top of the steep ascent which is formed at this 
point by the southern side of Montmartre, a solitary wom- 
an might have been seen hastening up the sidewalk on the 
left-hand side of the street. On reaching the corner of the 
Rue de Laval she paused an instant and cast a rapid glance 
behind her, as if to satisfy herself that she was not followed. 
The result proved eminently satisfactory, for no other hu- 
man soul was visible, so turning into the Eue de Laval, she 
began to run like a person who was nearing her goal. In a 
few seconds, she reached a tall stone wall in the middle of 
which was a small door that seemed to be used but rarely, 
for the lock was rusty and the hinges were beginning to 
fall to pieces. 

This door, however, was opened almost instantly in an- 
swer to her ring, and she passed in, though not without 
casting another hurried glance behind her. 

The high wall concealed a narrow walk, bordered with 
lindens, whose branches met and formed an arch, at the 
further end of which a light was shining, and after pausing 
a moment as if to assure herself that no one was passing on 
the street without, she started resolutely upon her rather 
gloomy way. 

"So you have come at last!" exclaimed a gruff voice. 



THE RED BAND. 125 

" The ladies were beginning to be very uneasy, you have 
kept them waiting so long. 

" Confound it! here I am forgetting that she can't hear 
anything," added the speaker, taking up the lamp to light 
Regina — for it was she — through a glass gallery. 

The young girl followed him, removing as she walked a 
hooded mantle that had enveloped her from head to foot. 
She had laid aside the odd costume she had worn up to the 
night of her adventure with Valnoir, but her black woollen 
dress and the lace scarf she had thrown over her bare head 
made her remarkable beauty all the more apparent, for her 
large dark eyes' sparkled with marvelous brilliancy, and 
her rapid walk had imparted a delicate rose-tint to her 
usually colorless cheek. 

Her guide seemed to be struck by her loveliness, for he 
could not help muttering: 

"Only to think of such a beautiful young girl running 
about from fair to fair, in company with a clown and tight- 
rope performer. She is virtuous, too, and as brave as a 
lion. If I had not placed myself in front of her she would 
have been killed by the same Prussian that wounded poor 
Monsieur Roger. This way, mademoiselle," he added, 
opening a door; " the ladies are in here. " * 

Two ladies were sitting by a round table in the middle of 
the plainly furnished room. The elder lady was reading a 
letter, the other was holding a book which she hastily 
dropped upon the table on seeing the young girl. 

"Here she is at last," remarked the guide, "audi 
think she has good news for us, for she wears a joyful air." 

Regina hastened to the old lady and kissed her hand. 

" Heaven be praised, my dear child! We have been 
shuddering to think of your being out £0 late in the streets 
of this wicked city." 

These words were uttered in a kind and sympathetic 
voice, and Regina must have understood them, for she re- 
plied with a look that expressed the deepest gratitude. ^ 



126 



THE. BED BAND. 



The speaker was over sixty years of age, but she was 
neither bent nor Wrinkled, and had not her hair been snow- 
white no one would have suspected her real age. 

She must have been remarkably handsome in her youth, 
and the' aristocratic tiontour of her features increased a 
naturally haughty expression that was tempered by the 
sweetness of her blue eyes. 

Besides, to judge of what she had been in her youth, one 
had only to look at the young girl beside her, who was her 
living image, with all the charms and freshness of twenty 
years. 

A tall and slender blonde, Mile. Eenee de Saint Senier 
was the very ideal of an English beauty, characterized by a 
delicacy of outline and a vivacity of movement and expres- 
sion that are seldom seen on the other side of the Channel. 

Her aunt, her father's sister, and the Dowager Countess 
de Muire, was a perfect specimen of a countess of the old 
school, and her noble descent was even more apparent in 
her manners than in her person. 

" Sit down, my child," she said, pointing to a chair. 
" Landreau, have you taken care to close the shutters se- 
curely?' ' she added, turning to the servant who had ush- 
ered the*young girl into the room. 

" There is no danger of my forgetting your orders, Ma- 
dame la Comtesse," replied the old servant. " There have 
been too many suspicious-looking characters prowling 
around the : cottage of late." 

" Very well, my friend; keep a sharp watch. Eenee, 
my dear, show this child the letter that tells us Roger is 
wounded and a prisoner at Saint Germain." 

Mile, de Saint Senier handed Begina an official-looking 
document. The young girl seized it eagerly, and as she 
proceeded with its perusal her face brightened, though her 
eyes filled with tears. 

" Poor child! how good and devoted she is!" esclajmed 
Mme. de Muire. 



THE RED -BAND, 127 

" She has, indeed, proved herself so, aunt," replied 
Mile, de Saint.Se.oier, gazing at their guest tenderly; "and 
I hope that we shall be able to keep her with us always." 

" J desire it as much as you possibly caui my dear child; 
but I am cbntjoually,tormented by a : fear, that she will fall 
into the clutches of that wretched acrobat. Don't you 
think, too, that the persistency with which she conceals her 
history from us is very strange, to say the least?" 

" She is timid, and inclined to be suspicious, like all who 
have suffered," said Eenee; " but I am sure that she will 
tell me some day. " 

"You speak as if she had the power of speech," re- 
marked Mme. de Muire, smiling. "It is true, however, 
that she writes with an ease and correctness that astonishes 
me." 

" Have you also noticed her remarkable intelligence, 
aunt? She seems to hear with her eyes. " 

" I can not help thinking that this young girl must have 
been reared by well-bred people, " remarked the old lady, 
thoughtfully. " But let us talk of our poor Roger. How 
much he must suffer at being thus separated from us! — 
even more than from his wound. Don't you think so^ 
Eenee?" 

Mile, de Saint-Senier blushed slightly. 

" Yes, aunt," she replied. " Oh, if we could but send 
him news of us, let him know that our anxiety is less 
keen!" 

"Who knows but some clever and daring messenger 
might succeed in getting through the lines. What do you 
think, Landreau?" 

" It would be no easy matter, countess. If it were 
merely a matter of risking one's life, mine would be at your 
service, madame; but those rascally Prussians keep such a 
sharp watch that no one can pass. I should be captured, 
and I should not even have the satisfaction of seeing Mon- 
sieur Roger, for I should be sent straight to Germany. " 



128 THE RED BAND. 

"Alas! he is right," sighed the old lady. "But look 
and see what the poor child has written, Eenee." 

Eegina had just written a few words upon a slate that 
the faithful Landreau had taken care to place upon the 
table. Eenee picked it up, and read aloud these words, 
which elicited from her an exclamation of surprise. 

" If you think you can spare me now, I will go to Saint 
Germain and bring M. de Saint Senier back with me. " 

" Poor child, her devotion exceeds her strength. I should 
never forgive myself if I consented to expose her to the 
danger of such an undertaking," remarked the countess. 

Eegina was watching the old lady's face intently, and 
she must have divined that her generous offer was declined, 
for eagerly seizing the slate she again began to write with 
feverish haste, Mile, de Saint Senier had risen, and was 
now leaning over the young girl's shoulder, reading each 
word as she traced it. 

" What does she say?" asked the countess. 

" ' You need have no fears,' " read Eenee, " ' the Prus- 
sians will not harm me. I know their language, and I will 
pretend that I visited their lines merely to follow my business 
as a fortune-teller.' " 

" She might succeed," murmured Mme. de Muire, " but 
I really can not allow her to risk her life a second time for 
Boger."" 

" Besides, even if she should succeed in getting through 
the lines, how could she manage to bring him back, wound- 
ed, and even dying, as he is, perhaps," said Eenee. 

Sobs choked her utterance. 

" As to that, mademoiselle," interrupted the old game- 
keeper, " I saw the lieutenant fall, and I am as sure that 
he received only a wound in the head as I am that I killed 
the Prussian who inflicted it. These scalp-wounds either 
kill or cure very quickly, and I am sure that Monsieur 
Soger will be taken from the hospital and sent to Ger- 
many in a few days." 



THE EED BAND. 129 

" And who knows if wo shall ever see him again?" 
sobbed Renue. 

Mme. de Muire was silent for a few moments. 

" No, no," she said at last, " if any misfortune should 
happen to the child I should reproach myself until the end 
of my days. Besides, it would grieve me too much to see 
her resume her old life, even to save my nephew. Make 
her understand that I am strongly opposed to this plan, 
and that we also need her to complete the work she has so 
well begun." 

So Mile, de Saint Senier dried her tears and wrote: 

" It is impossible. Your services are needed here." 

Regiua glanced at the words, and hung her head sadly, 
but her bosom heaved with suppressed emotion, and her 
hands trembled violently as she replaced the slate upon the 
table. 

" How she loves him!''* murmured Mme. de Muire, who 
was watching her with close attention. 

Renee lifted her still tearful eyes to her aunt's face. 

" No more than you do, I know, my dear child," said 
the old lady, smiling gently, " but really, I am proud 
that our Roger can inspire such devotion." 

" He is so good!" murmured Mile, de Saint Senier. 

" As good as he is handsome," added the countess. 
' ' His resemblance to the portrait of your great uncle, 
Colonel de Saint Senier, is very striking. You will have a 
charming husband." 

" I have thought only of his heart," said Renee, blushing. 

" Good looks are not to be despised, by any means, my 
child," said the lady, who cherished the ideas of the First 
Empire upon this subject; "but I think, with you, that 
Roger has many other merits, and as soon as this dreadful 
war is over we will celebrate the marriage upon my estate 
in Burgundy." 

'"The future looks very dark," remarked Mile, de 
Saint Senier, sadly. 



130 THE BED BAND. 

Her aunt took her hands, and was about to reassure her, 
when she suddenly exclaimed : 

" But the child is ill. Quick, Landreau, some water and 
my bottle of smelling-salts on the mantel/' 

Eegina had indeed turned frightfully pale, but she 
seemed to conquer her weakness by a violent effort of the 
will; the blood returned to her cheeks, and she motioned 
to them that the faintness had passed. 

"The child is worn out with fatigue," said Mme. de 
Muire, " and must have rest. I will not allow her to run 
about the streets, and spend her nights in watching any 
longer. We will take her place, if need be. Landreau, 
show her up to the room we have prepared for her; we, my 
dear Eenee, had better go up to the white chamber." 

Eegina had risen from her chair, but seemed to be ab- 
sorbed in profound thought; never theless 3 she allowed her- 
self to be embraced by Mile, de Saint Senior, and mechan- 
ically accepted the arm Landreau offered. 

' ' You can all retire to rest with tranquil minds, Madame 
la Comtesse," said the old keeper; " I make my nightly 
rounds as regularly as if the garden on the Eue de Laval 
was the park at Saint Senier." 

The old man conducted his charge with almost paternal 
care to the door of the room that had been prepared for her. 

"Good-night, beautiful child," he said, kindly, as he 
ushered her into the room. " Pleasant dreams. Be sure 
not to open the blinds.'' 

The room in which Eegina found herself was long and 
narrow, and must have been formerly occupied by a man, 
for several fowling-pieces were hanging on the wall. 

A hanging of 'antique tapestry divided this sort of gallery, 
which had. been transformed into a sleeping apartment, 
and on the high mantel, directly in front of this hanging, 
was an old-fashioned mirror in a heavily carved frame. 

The windows opened upon the garden, for the room was 
on the first floor, but the carefully closed shutters inter- 



THE RED BAND. 131 

cepted every ray of light and cut off all communication 
■with the outside world. 

Neither Mme. de Muire nor Mile, de Saint Senier had 
noticed that the young girl had taken away with her the 
portrait of Roger, which was lying on the table beside the 
slate, but such was the case, and no sooner had the young 
girl been left alone than she began to contemplate it with 
rapt intentness. 

Her face seemed transfigured, and her air of resignation 
gradually gave place to one of firm resolution. Her eyes 
sparkled with wonderful brilliancy, a faint flush overspread 
her pale face, and the slight form became more erect, as if 
its owner were nerving herself to confront approaching 
danger. 

Soon she drew from her bosom a medallion that she 
kissed several times, and then again directed her attention 
to the young officer's portrait. Her lips moved, as if she 
could indeed speak, and soon big tears began to roll down 
her cheeks. 

After a few moments of silent contemplation she dropped 
upon her knees and began to pray. 

She remained a long time with her head upon her bowed 
hands, that were resting upon a table on which the faithful 
Landreau had placed some books and writing materials; 
then she slowly rose and walked to the window, which she 
opened, after taking care to place the candles in such a 
position that the light would not be seen from outside. 

The night was dark, and a fine rain was hurled by the 
westerly wind straight into the face of the young girl as 
she leaned out to look down into the garden. 

There was nothing moving in the open space that sur- 
rounded the cottage which Valnoir had so often scrutinized 
from his window. The silence, too, was profound, for that 
night the batteries gave forth no sound. The beleagured 
city seemed to be resting after the recent battle, and the 
Prussian artillery had not yet opened fire. 



132 THE RED BAND. 

A brief survey of the little lawn and the lonely walk 
reassured Eegina. She hastily returned to the table, and, 
without taking time to seat herself, she wrote upon a large 
sheet of paper the following lines: 

" Forgive me for disobeying you, but I am going. I 
must save him or die. If you do not see me again in five 
days, pray for me, and think sometimes of one who loved 
you and who deems herself happy to be able to give her life 
for you. " 

After signing this with the name of Eegina she stood 
there motionless for a moment. It seemed very much as if 
she was inclined to add her surname, but she threw away 
her pen, and shaking her head as if to drive away some 
thought that had just occurred to her, she rose and stepped 
to the mantel where the candles were still burning beside 
Eoger's portrait. But as she extended her hand to pick up 
this picture which she intended to place upon her heart as 
a talisman against the Prussian bullets, she paused as if 
petrified. 

In the glass she saw a man standing behind her. 

She tried to cry out, but she had not time. Before she 
could utter the inarticulate sound peculiar to deaf mutes, 
she was seized about the waist by two strong arms. At 
the same time another man concealed behind the tapestry 
sprung upon her, and stuffed a handkerchief into her 
mouth. 

The attack was so sudden and so unexpected that Eegina 
was thrown down and gagged before she could make the 
slightest resistance. One of the assailants took advantage 
of the first opportunity to blow out the candles, and in the 
complete darkness that suddenly enveloped the room, the 
sense of vision, the only one now at her disposal, became 
useless to her. 

She closed her eyes, and prepared to die. 

"Eaise her, and quickly," whispered the wretch who 
had first attfr'ted her- 



THE USD BAND. 133 

" Wait until I get the note she just wrote/ * replied the 
other. 

" What do you want of that?" 

" It may be of service to us by and by. " 

" Make haste then, that fool of a soldier may come 
before we have time to get away." 

Both scoundrels seemed to realize the necessity of imme- 
diate action, for Eegina was lifted and borne toward the 
window. 

" Did you succeed?" asked a voice from the garden. 

" Yes, citizen." 

" Then drop your prize and come down. " 

Eegina was lowered into the arms of the accomplice sta- 
tioned below; the others leaped down upon the grass with- 
out making the slightest noise, seized their victim, and 
hustled her off. 

It was darker than ever; the wind was blowing with in- 
creased violence, and the inmates of the cottage must have 
been asleep, for no light was visible, nor could one hear the 
slightest sound. 

The scoundrels seemed to know their way perfectly, for 
turning the corner of the piazza they entered the walk bor- 
dered with lindens, and soon reached the gate. They must 
also have been familiar with the means of opening it, for 
one of them had only to touch a spring before it slowly 
turned upon its hinges. 

The Eue de Laval was entirely deserted, but in the dim 
light of a distant street-lamp one could just distinguish a 
carriage at the corner of the Eue des Martyrs. 

" I will run on ahead to let them know you are coming," 
said the man who had stood guard in the garden. 

From the moment of her capture Eegina had not made 
a single movement, and it seemed more than likely that 
fright had killed her, for her arms hung inertly at her 
sides, and her disheveled head rested heavily upon the 
breast of one of the bandits. 



134 the RED BAND. 

With a few rapid strides they reached the waiting car- 
riage, where the person who seemed to be the leader of the 
expedition was holding the door open. 

" Put her in/' he said in a gruff voice. 

In the twinkling of an eye the young girl found herself 
in the interior of the vehicle, between two guards who 
would evidently shrink from nothing to prevent her escape. 

In a moment the other man, who had given his orders to 
the coachman, sprung in, and the carriage started in the 
direction of the park formed by the intersection of the Hue 
de Laval and the Eue de Breda. 

"Well, my boys, this is what I call quick work," re- 
marked the leader. 

"We have been lucky, I must admit/' growled one of 
the subordinates. " To find the kitchen door open, the 
stairs carpeted so as to deadon all sound, and a hanging in 
the room to conceal us was certainly luck, indeed/' 

" To say nothing of the fact that we had to deal with a 
girl who can neither speak nor hear. " 

" Our task is not completed, recollect," remarked the 
leader of the expedition, laconically. 

" That's a fact, Monsieur Taupier. What are we to do 
with our prize?" 

" Didn't Frapillon tell you?" 

" Not he. He says go, and we go. We are not in the 
habit of asking any explanation of him, I can tell you. 
We are going to take her to some safe place, I suppose." 

" You are right, Mouchabeuf." 

" But where are we to find it?" 

" You will see in a quarter of an hour, if we continue to 
get over the ground at this rate." 

On leaving the Eue de Laval the vehicle turned into one 
of the outer boulevards and drove in the direction of La 
Villette. 

It was long past midnight, and in this lonely neighbor- 
hood only some belated drunkard would be seen prowling 



THE BED BAND. 135 

about at this hour of the night, especially as the barracks 
recently constructed for the accommodation of the country 
militia were not occupied that night, by reason of the sortie 
of the morning. 

IJegina still maintained a statue-like immobility, and had 
it not been for her quick breathing one would have sup- 
posed her dead. 

" As she keeps quiet I think we might remove the hand- 
kerchief," remarked one of the men. 

" It's not worth while, for we arc nearly at our journey's 
end," replied Taupier, as the carriage turned to the right 
and descended a steep hill leading to the canal. The pave- 
ment had become very rough, aud the clumsy old vehicle 
jolted its occupants roughly about. On the right were oc- 
casional one-story houses, separated by wooden palings or 
by long gray walls. On the left was the bank of the de- 
serted canal, for war had put an end to all navigation, and 
the boatmen and the keepers of the locks had taken their 
guns, and were now guarding tho ramparts. 

In a few minutes Taupier rapped violently on the glass, 
and the carriage stopped. * 

"Here we are!" he remarked. "Open that door on 
your side, Mouchabeuf ; get out, and prepare to take the 
fair damsel we are going to hand you." 

" I think we had better get out of the other door," was 
the reply. " We won't have so far to carry our burden 
then, for there is nothing but the canal on this side." 

" Do what I say, without arguing," retorted the hunch- 
back. " We are only losing time." 

Mouchabeuf obeyed. Taupier followed him, remarking 
to the other man: 

" Remain here, and see that the girl doesn't move until 
I come back. Come with me," he added, taking Moucha- 
beuf roughly by the arm. 

" Lead on!" 

The hunchback stepped nimbly over the iron chain that 



136 THE EE.D BAND. 

separated the street from the wharf, and walked straight to 
the edge of the canal. The deep black water was almost 
on a level with the wharf; there was not a boat near, nor a 
single light in sight. 

J. B. Frapillon's emissary watched the movements of his 
chief with evident uneasiness. 

" Make haste now/' said Taupier, suddenly. " G-o back 
to the carriage, and help your comrade to bring our prison- 
er down here. Go, I tell you; have you become as deaf as 
the girl?" he added, impatiently, seeing that his subordi- 
nate made no movement to obey. 

"I hear what you say," replied Mouchabeuf, quietly, 
"but before I go for the girl I should like to know what 
you intend to do with her. " 

" What business is it of yours? I don't mind telling 
you, however. The girl is tired, and I am going to give 
her a chance to rest down there," said Taupier, sneeringly, 
as he pointed to the canal. 

" I suspected as much. " 

" So much the better. You escape any unpleasant sur- 
prise. But make haste, I don't like my plans hindered." 

" This one will never be carried out," replied Moucha- 
beuf, coldly. 

"And who'll prevent it, I should like to know?" de- 
manded the hunchback, threateningly. 

" I will. " 

" I must be dreaming. Were you or were you not hired 
by Frapillon to assist me in ridding myself of a young girl 
who is in my way?" 

" Let us come to an understanding. I was hired to as- 
sist in abducting a young girl, but not in murdering her. 
There was nothing said about that, and I don't intend to 
have anything to do with such a crime." 

"Oh! I understand you. You think you haven't been 
paid liberally enough, and yon want me to offer you some- 
thing additional. So be it! There's nothing mean about 



THE RED BAND. 137 

"me, and I'll tell your employer to give you one thousand 
francs instead of five hundred. Come now, start!" 

" Neither for one thousand nor ten thousand," replied 
Monchabeuf, shaking his head. " I've no desire to end my 
days on the guillotine." 

" Capital punishment will soon be abolished, you idiot! 
I advocate its immediate suppression every evening in my 
paper." 
, This assurance did not satisfy Mouchabeuf, however. 

" Possibly," he rejoined, coldly, " but in the meantime 
I've no intention of leaving this vale of tears. I'll assist 
you, however, in putting the girl anywhere you like except 
in the carnal." 

" I can put her in there without any of your help, you 
egregious fool," exclaimed Taupier, frantic with anger. 
" Your comrade is not so scrupulous, and I am sure of the 
coachman. Take yourself off, and the sooner the better. 
We can dispense with your services. " 

As he thus gave vent to his passion the hunchback started 
toward the carriage, but Mouchabeuf, instead of accepting 
his dismissal, followed him, and reached the vehicle almost 
at the same instant. 

The coachman had left the box and was standing beside 
his horses, and the man who had remained in the carriage 
was dividing his attention between the still motionless 
Eegina and Taupier's movements. 

' ' Come, my man, are you willing to lend me a helping 
hand?" asked the hunchback. 

" If I can," replied the coachman, in drawling tones 
that revealed his Norman origin. " What is wanted?" 

" I want the girl taken from the carriage and carried a 
few yards. I'll attend to the rest, and there will be fifty 
louis to divide between you two, as this coward deserts 
us." 

" That will be fifty pistoles apiece, then," muttered the 
coachman, evidently tempted. 



138 THE BED BAND. 

"And I pay cash," added Taupier, rattling some gold 
coins in his pocket. 

"That would certainly be an inducement/' remarked 
the driver, without committing himself, however. 

Mouchabeuf stood watching the conclusion of this horri- 
ble bargain in silence. He had folded his arms upon his 
breast, and seemed to be reflecting. 

" Why do you refuse to have any hand in it?" inquired 
his comrade from the carriage. 

" Because I've no desire to lose my head in the first 
place, and in the second place, because I know our em- 
ployer, and he never said a word to me about it. He told 
me to find the girl, and I found her; when I discovered 
where she was he told me to abduct her, and I did abduct her, 
but not a word did he say about drowning her in the canal. " 

" "What! do you think he knows nothing about it?" 

" If you want my advice it is to have nothing more to do 
with the affair." 

If Eegina heard this ominous conversation she must be 
endowed with marvelous self-control, for she did not move, 
and the man who held her did not even feel her shudder. 

As for the hunchback, he was half frantic with rage. 
He felt that his prey was about to escape, and he racked 
his brain to find some argument to overcome the scruples 
of his assistants. 

" My children," he began, in a paternal tone, " I had 
no idea you could be so foolish, but you are sensible fellows, 
after all, and I am going to take the trouble to convince 
you that it is too late for you to draw back now. " 

"It is never too late to avoid Article 302," muttered 
Mouchabeuf, who knew every word of the penal code by 
heart. 

" True, but do you, who are so familiar with the appli- 
cation of the death penalty, know what constitutes com- 
plicity? Suppose, for instance, that we should take the 
girl to Frapillon's house or to mine, and find a way to get 



THE BED BAND. 139 

rid of her without your assistance, do you think, oh, learned 
lawyer! that the abduction in which you have just had a 
hand will be much to the fancy of any judge of instruction 
who is called upon to investigate the matter?" 

This argument, to which the hunchback had already had 
recourse with Valnoir, produced its effect in this instance 
as well. 

" But, Monsieur Taupier, is it absolutely necessary to 
put the girl out of the way?" asked Mouchabeuf. 

" I did not go to all this expense merely to keep her to 
look at." 

" But can't it be managed in some other way? What if 
she should be placed in some safe place of confinement. 
Wouldn't that answer your purpose just as well?" 

" Yes," he replied ironically, " especially as those hussies 
at the cottage would be sure to discover her whereabouts 
some fine morning and set her free. You had better look 
out for the penal code, then, my dear Mouchabeuf. " 

" But there are plenty of private insane asylums, and we 
should have no difficulty in passing her off as a lunatic 
with her moon-struck ways and her rolling eyes. " 

" Oh, that mode of procedure has become too common. 
Besides, one of these days, the Prussians will take Charen- 
ton, and set all the lunatics free,' ' retorted the hunchback, 
laughing at his atrocious jest. 

Mouchabeuf scratched his head in evident perplexity. 
Taupier did not give him any more time for reflection. 

" Well, my boys, the matter is settled, isn't it?" he 
asked, turning to his other companions., 

The coachman nodded his assent, and the other man 
offered no objection. 

" Then the sooner we finish the job the better. You 
must have a rope in the carriage, driver. " 

' ' Yes, under the front seat. " 

" Well, hand it to me. I shall have to do all the work 
myself, it seems." 



140 THE RED BAND. 

The girl was securely bound in the twinkling of an eye, 
for she offered no resistance, knowing that it would be 
worse than useless. 

"Now pick her up, and carry her to the end of the 
wharf/' said Taupier, when the operation was successfully 
concluded. 

The wretches obeyed. 

The poor girl managed to clasp her bound hands; her 
eyes were lifted to Heaven. She was praying. 

" Here, this is a good place," said Taupier, leaning over 
the edge of the canal. 

Mouchabeuf had silently watched these preparations 
without taking any part in them, however, but his former 
scruples now began to assail him with increased vigor. 
Either Taupier' s eloquence had failed to convince him, or 
the sight of the victim's beauty and resignation had touched 
even his hard heart. 

"You shall not kill her!" he exclaimed, suddenly, 
throwing himself between his more ferocious comrades and 
the hunchback, who was leaning over the black water like 
a vulture over a freshly made grave. 

Taupier sprung forward and seized him by the collar, 
but Mouchabeuf was a vigorous man, and he easily freed 
himself from his assailant. 

" You shall pay for this, scoundrel!" cried the panting 
hunchback. " I will make Frapillon dismiss you, and if you 
don't starve to death I'll find some other way of getting 
you under ground." 

The other men hesitated, but finally deposited their 
burden on the wharf. 

" Excuse me for opposing you, Monsieur Taupier," said 
Mouchabeuf, " but it is for your own sake as much as 
ours: besides, I'll wager my head that my employer had no 
idea that the affair was to end in this way." 

The hunchback ground his teeth, but said nothing, 
i "I have a plan, and I think a very good one," remarked 



THE RED BAND. 141 

Mouchabeuf, " and if it doesn't please you I'll say no more, 
and you can do as you please." 

" Speak quick, then." 

" It is not for the pleasure of killing her that you want 
to drop the girl into the canal, is it?" 

"No." 

"It is merely to get her safely out of the way, and to 
prevent the ladies at the cottage from ever seeing her 
again?" 

"Yes." 

" Well, I can tell you a way to accomplish that without 
running a risk of anything worse than six months imprison- 
ment. Why can't she be quietly sent to some country 
from which she would never return?" 

" The dead are the only persons who do not return. " 

" But India or China would answer just as well as the 
grave, it seems to me." 

" It would take too long to get her to Havre or to 
Nantes. I would rather ship her by way of the canal," 
added the villainous wretch. 

" She could go by land to the place where I would send 
her." 

" And where is that?" 

" To Prussia." 

" Are you mad, or are you only making merry at my 
expense?" 

"Neither." 

" Go to the devil! I've had enough of your plans. " 

" Will you listen to me or not?" 

" No, I'd rather let the girl go and be done with it. She 
would return to the cottage and denounce you, and you 
would be caught like the fool that you are, while I can get 
out of the scrape by leaving Paris in a balloon. " 

" No one will be caught if you will let me manage the 
affair. You have been to Rueil, I suppose?" 

" Yes." 



142 



THE BED BAND. 



"' Do you know the condition of affairs there now?" 
"I know there was fighting there this morning." 
" Yes, but usually Rueil is neutral ground, and one can 
talk with the Prussians as safely and quietly as we are talk- 
ing here." 

" I don't care if we can, and if that is all you have to 
say to me — " 

" Let me finish, and then you can decide. During the 
twenty years I have been working I have saved some money, 
and I have invested it in that locality. I am extremely 
fond of fishing, and when there is nothing for me to do in 
Paris I—" 

The hunchback fairly stamped with impatience. 

" I merely tell you this/' continued Mouchabeuf, 
" merely to explain how I come to be the owner of a sort 
of tavern and drinking saloon on the Bougival road, where 
I have had plenty of opportunities to make the acquaint- 
ance of the Prussians since the siege began, for I go out 
there at least three times a week to superintend my estab- 
lishment and attend to Frapillon's commissions." 

" Ah, ha, so Frapillon gives you commissions for the 
Prussians!" 

" Oh, they're of a perfectly innocent nature, I assure 
you. I take them newspapers, for which they pay a liberal 
price. They give me theirs in return, and Frapillon pur- 
chases them of me, at a good round price I admit, still 
everybody gains by the operation. " 

" And where is this business carried on?" 

" In my shop. Everything is very cleverly managed. 
Each army has its hours, so there is never any unpleasant 
meeting between the contending forces. When our men are 
there the Prussians are informed of the fact by their scouts, 
and there is no danger of their showing themselves; but as 
soon as our men go the Prussians come, and I tell you a 
whole quart of schnapps apiece has no terrors for them. " 

" All this is worth knowing," muttered the hunchback, 



THE RED BAND. 143 

" and if Citizen Frapillon should ever become hard to 
manage — 

" But I fail to see how your acquaintance with the Ger- 
mans can be of any service to me," he added, aloud. 

" It is very plain, it seems to me. You want to get rid 
of the girl, and if she never returns that is all you ask." 

'"' Precisely.-" 

" Well, I will hand her over to the Prussians, who will 
not release her, I promise you. I recently furnished them 
with two singers, who were immediately sent on to Saint 
Germain to adorn the stage of a concert hall there. " 

" But this girl is no singer." 

" That makes no difference. I'll invent some story with 
the aid of a friend of mine, Corporal Tichdorf, of the 
Pomeranian Fusiliers. He's a fellow whose wits are wonder- 
fully sharpened by the sight of a thaler or two, and I 
promise you that he will ship the girl so far that she will 
never trouble you again. " 

Taupier was listening now with the closest possible atten- 
tion. 

" And what guaranty have I that you will do as you 
proposer" he asked, after a moment's silence. 

" You can go with me, if you like, and witness the con- 
clusion of the bargain. That will convince you that I am 
not deceiving you. " 

" But when and how do you expect to get to Eueil, 
especially burdened with such a piece of merchandise as 
this?" 

" You need have no anxiety on that score. The gates 
of the city are closed now, but they will be opened again 
to-morrow morning at seven o'clock, and we can reach 
my place by noon. " 

" Unless the National Guards stop us on the way." 

" I have a pass for three persons. " 

" But what if the girl should make a disturbance?" 

" How can she, when she is dumb?" 



144 THE BED BAUD. 

" She might make signs to the persons we meet." 

" Oh, we will take her there in the big covered wagon I 
use in transporting my merchandise. Besides, I am 
known, and if need be, I'll say that she is a crazy niece of 
mine. " 

" But won't we have to wait a long time after we get 
there? 5 ' 

"No; they come always at night, and I have a good 
cellar where we can deposit the girl for safe keeping." 

Taupier tramped up and down the wharf a few times. 

"There seems to be no other way," he muttered be- 
tween his set teeth. "These scoundrels would not obey 
me now." 

" Come, you fellows, carry the girl back to the carriage. 
"We'll take her to Mouchabeuf's rooms, and keep her there 
until the gates open in the morning." 

The rascals needed no urging; the articles of the penal 
code had given them abundant food for reflection. 

Eegina was again placed in the carriage. 

" I would have preferred the canal. It was the easiest 
as well as the safest way," growled the hunchback, as the 
carriage again started off. 



CHAPTER VII. 

Mouchabeuf had told the truth. 

His tavern was certainly the best patronized establish- 
ment in the village of Rueil during the siege. Not that 
the place was attractive in appearance; on the contrary, it 
would have been difficult to find one more unprepossessing. 
Constructed of odds and ends of material, the building was 
quadrangular in form, and only a story and a half high. 

On the ground-floor, which was almost entirely occupied 
by a very large room intended for a public drinking-saloon, 
there was also a narrow hall, which the ingenious proprie- 



the red band. 145 

tor had converted into a store, while two or three half- 
furnished rooms on the floor above could be used as lodg- 
ings for guests, if necessary. 

Outside, the building was painted yellow, and adorned 
with dark-red blinds. 

A tiny strip of garden, in which carrots and lettuce grew 
helter-skelter, completed the charms of this rural resort. 

Nor was the popularity of the establishment due to the 
superior quality of the solids and liquids sold there, these 
being of a varied nature, but of execrable quality. The 
secret of the preference accorded it was due entirely to its 
location. Situated at the end, or rather in the outskirts of 
the village, between the French and Prussian outposts, the 
establishment was in an isolated position. 

It had two doors — one opening into the road, and the 
other into the garden, which extended to the river. A deep 
cellar afforded a secure place of retreat, if necessary, and a 
cupola from which guests could be seen some time prior to 
their arrival. 

In addition to the clandestine traffic he carried on for 
his employer, J. B. Frapillon, Mouchabeuf frequently fur- 
nished his countrymen with information obtained through 
German officers by means of presents of real Havanas and 
of genuine champagne of which he kept a secret supply. 

In the proprietor's absence, the establishment was con- 
ducted by a young man about twenty-five years of age, who 
was famous alike for his strength and for his luxuriant 
locks, which reminded one of Samson, the conqueror of the 
Philistines, and who rejoiced in the name of Polyte. 

On the day following Eegina's abduction, Polyte had 
been as busy as busy could be from early dawn. The 
skirmish of the day before had brought a crowd of ambu- 
lance drivers and hangers-on, who did not fail to take a 
drink at Mouchabeuf's bar. The drinking-saloon and the 
shop had not been empty for a single moment, and though 
Polyte had achieved wonders, be was beginning to be at his 



146 'jchE HED BAND. 

wits' end, and to bitterly deplore the absence of his master, 
who had not been there for several days, but whose arrival 
was momentarily expected. 

Again and again he rushed to the door to look up the 
road in the hope of seeing Mouchabeuf's wagon approach- 
ing, but each time he was disappointed. 

" It is certainly very strange," he said to himself. " It 
is after four o'clock, and the master has not come, though 
he must have heard the cannon yesterday, and know that I 
need him. " 

" Polyte, give us another drink all round, and make 
haste, you slow poke !" cried a chorus of husky voices. 

" Coming, coming! You have had enough, in my opinion, 
but you must gorge yourselves, I suppose/' muttered 
Polyte, as he prepared to do his customer's bidding. 

The men who were making all this noise seemed to be 
sufficiently excited already. 

There were five of them— all clad in an odd uniform conr 
sisting of sky-blue trousers, red sashes, a black jacket, 
gaudily trimmed with yellow braid, and pointed hats orna- 
mental with a cock's feather. 

They only needed a velvet mantle to realize the usual 
stage conception of Fra Diavolo. 

Their fantastic costumes did not seem to embarrass them, 
however; and it was evident that they were thoroughly in 
earnest, though military discipline did not seem to be their 
forte, judging from the familiarity that characterized their 
intercourse with their commander, a stalwart fellow about 
forty years of age, with closely cropped hair, a dashing 
goatee and waxed mustache. 

He did not disdain to drink with his men, and the only 
(•superiority he seemed to desire over them was in the nam- 
'her of glasses drained. 

" To the health of the Lost Children of the Rue Mau- 
buee," he cried, emptying, at a single draught, the glass 
Polyte had just filled. 



THE BED BAND. 147 

The soldiers repeated the toast, accompanying it with a 
loud hurrah. 

'' Ah, my boys," continued the officer in the melancholy 
tone affected by intoxicated men, " if my advice had 
been heeded we should not have been beaten again yester- 
day." 

" These brigadier generals, you see, are all good for 
nothing," responded one of the Lost Children, setting his 
glass down on the counter with an emphatic thump. 

"An attack in force! an attack in force! That would 
be my plan," remarked their leader. " Put me at the head 
of three thousand brave men like yourselves to-morrow 
morning, and we would sleep at Versailles to-morrow night! 
Polyte, give us a rum-punch to cool our throats," he added. 
But Polyte was not listening. 

He had heard the far-off rumble of carriage- wheels, [and 
had run to the door. 

" It is the proprietor!" he murmured, shading his eyes 
with his hand, " and he must have brought a big lot of pro- 
visions, for the wagon seems to be heavily loaded. " 

It was, indeed, Mouchabeuf s turn-out that was coming 
up the road, and that stopped in front of the wine-shop a 
few moments afterward. 

" Come here, Polyte," cried the man as he jumped down 
from the front seat. " I've brought company. Come and 
help them out. " 

" All right, all right, sir! You did well to return this 
evening, sir." 

" Why? have you a good many customers?" 

" Five or six fellows now, that is all." 

" Get them off as quick as you can. We shall have 
plenty of work on hand to-night." 

"Yes, my fine fellow, come and unload," exclaimed 
Taupier. " As for me, I really must stretch my legs a lit- 
tle," he added, hastening to the house as rapidly as his mis- 
shapen limbs would permit. 



1 W friE Rill) BAND. 

' '' Why, here's a woman, and a pretty one, 
jlaimed Polyte, as he let down the step. 

Almost at the same instant a sullen exclamation resound- 
ed from Taupier, who had just found himself face to face 
on the threshold with the oommander of the Enf ants Perdus. 

"Podensac! Zounds! what luck!" growled the hunch- 
back. 

" Taupier, by all that's holy!" exclaimed the captain. 

The hunchback would have given a good deal to avoid 
this encounter, but it was too late. 

" This is what comes of allowing one's self to listen to 
idiots!" he muttered, instinctively recoiling, as if with the 
intention of beating a retreat. 

" What the devil are you doing here, and what have you 
got in that ambulance?" asked Podensac, laughing. 

" I'll tell you presently," replied the hunchback. 

Mouchabeuf, who had witnessed the meeting, and in- 
stinctively felt that it must be a very disagreeable one for 
the person for whom he was just at that moment working, 
made an attempt to prevent Eegina from showing herself. 

He ran to the wagon, but he reached it too late. 

The young girl had already placed her hand upon the 
shoulder of the complacent Polyte and leaped lightly to the 
ground. 

She appeared not in the least alarmed or astonished. 

During the long drive she had been freed from her bonds, 
and the handkerchief had been removed from her mouth — 
conclusive proof that her persecutors no longer distrusted 
her or feared any attempt at escape on her part. 

" Oh, ho! I understand!" exclaimed Podensac, on per- 
ceiving Eegina. " So you are something of a gay Lothario, 
after all?" 

"Mind your own business!" replied the hunchback, 
Toughly. 

" Come, come, don't be angry, fond lover, but come and 
take a drink with me. There are only a few trusty friends 



THE RED BAND. 149 

here, and you can bring your lady-love in with perfect 
safety." 

"I'm not thirsty," replied Taupier, who was trying to 
devise somt; plausible story, but could find none, to explain 
this trip to Rueil, in company with a woman. 

" But surely I'm not mistaken," cried Podensac, sud- 
denly. " That pretty girl you have with you is certainly 
our old acquaintance of the forest of Saint Germain." 

The hunchback made a horrible grimace, but said noth- 
ing. 

One can not think of everything, and in tlWfirst moment 
of surprise he had entirely forgotten that the captain and 
Eegina had met under circumstances that were not likely 
to be forgotten. 

The situation was becoming more and more complicated, 
and the astute Taupier began to wonder if it would not be 
best to take Podensac into his confidence, at least par- 
tially. 

The dashing Podensac had formerly served in the regu- 
lar army in the capacity of second lieutenant, and had even 
played a very creditable part in several brilliant campaigns, 
for his bravery was unquestionable, but unfortunately on 
returning from the Crimea he had been appointed treasurer 
of his regiment. 

This appointment proved his ruin, as sundry errors in 
his accounts soon led to his dismissal from the service. 

After this downfall, the former lieutenant had practiced 
several branches of industry, the most honest of which was 
certainly that which had brought him in close relations 
with Taupier, and it was merely to the fact of a slight ac- 
quaintance formed at the outposts that he owed the honor 
of having served as M. de Saint Senier's second. 

" I understand now," said Podensac, with a knowing 
wink; "you have taken a fancy to the girl, in the first 
place, because she is as pretty as a picture, and in the sec- 
ond place, because she is dumb. You have no gossiping to 



150 THE BED BAND. 

fear, and that is a great inducement to a politician like 
yourself." 

The hunchback concluded it would be better not to un- 
deceive his friend than to make any dangerous revelations, 
especially as Eegina would have neither the opportunity nor 
the power to contradict this version of the case. As for 
Eegina, she was walking slowly to and fro, without evincing 
the- slightest fear or embarrassment, and the hunchback, 
who was furtively watching her, congratulated himself upon 
the resolution he had just formed, while Mouchabeuf, see- 
ing Taupier chatting gayly with Podensac, thought that 
they must understand each other perfectly, so with Polyte's 
assistance he began to unload the wagon. 

Taupier resolved to carry out the r61e of lover which had 
been thus unexpectedly forced upon him. He approached 
Eegina and gallantly offered her his arm to escort her to the 
house, but not without uttering these significant words as 
he passed Mouchabeuf: 

"Come in as soon as you have finished, and get these 
people off as soon as possible. " 

The entrance of the ill-assorted couple was greeted by 
loud acclamations on the part of Podensac, who had reached 
that state of intoxication at which one feels positively 
obliged to make a noise. 

" And now, my children," cried the gallant captain, " I 
have the honor to present to you Citizen Taupier, the fa- 
mous journalist and his wife, a distinguished artiste. He 
is one of the editors of the famous ' Serpenteau/ but not a 
bit proud for all that, as he is going to do us the honor to 
drink with us. Come, Polyte, where is the punch wo 
ordered?" 

"Here it is/' cried the young man, entering the room 
with an immense bowl of smoking punch in his hands. 

The appearance of the beverage was greeted by lusfcy 
cheers, and Podensac, arming himself with a pewter ladle, 
began to fill the glasses. 



THE RED BAND. 151 

Taupier accepted the portion offered him without any 
urging, and even carried his audacity so far as to offer a 
glass to Eegina. That young girl had seated herself upon 
a bench, and her alniost smiling face expressed none of the 
disgust that this bar-room scene must have excited in her 
breast. 

She gently pushed away the glass, making signs that she 
was not thirsty, but she manifested no anger at the fa- 
miliarity. 

Her calmness began to astonish and alarm Taupier, 
whose suspicions were invariably aroused by anything he 
could not understand. 

" What a pity it is that she can't talk," remarked Po- 
densac, in a whisper aside to his friend Taupier. " I should 
like to ask her what became of the acrobat, and what ad- 
ventures they met with while they were bringing Saint 
Senier's body to Paris." 

" I thought that you returned to the city with them." 

" No, only as far as Rueil, where the Uhlans came very 
near catching us. There I left them to rejoin my men, 
who were stationed near Colombes." 

The young girl had manifested no surprise on seeing 
Podensac, but she had kept a close watch of him, and 
seemed to be following his words by the movement of his 
lips. 

Just as the captain of the Enfants Perdus expressed his 
regret at not being able to question her, she drew from a 
satchel suspended from her belt a quantity of small ivory 
blocks, and spread them out on the table in front of her. 

" Look, an alphabet!" exclaimed Podensac. " We shall 
be able to talk after all. " 

" Let her alone," cried Taupier, angrily. " She is not 
very strong, and I don't want her annoyed. 

" What a fool I was not to have thought of this," he 
added, mentally. 

While he was trying to catch Mouchabeuf 's eye, and make 



152 THE RED BAND. 

signs to him to get rid of the sharp-shooters immediately, 
Eegina rose, walked straight up to the captain, took his 
left hand, and began to scrutinize the lines in the palm. 

" Delightful! delightful!" exclaimed Podensac, bursting 
into a boisterous laugh. " She is going to tell my fortune!" 

" She is mad!" growled Taupier. 

The turn the affair had taken was certainly strange 
enough to arouse the hunchback's astonishment. 

As they neared Eueil Taupier had fancied that the pris- 
oner's face brightened, and that her eyes shone with greater 
brilliancy, but he rather inclined to the belief that fright 
had affected the mind of his victim; and though he felt a 
slight uneasiness on perceiving Podensac, he no longer 
doubted that Eegina had become insane when he saw her 
scrutinize the captain's palm. 

In the meantime the young girl had drawn the dashing 
officer toward the table on which she had spread her alpha- 
bet, and had made him seat himself beside her on one of 
the wooden benches that took the place of chairs in the 
establishment. 

Podensac allowed himself to be thus led, and seemed to 
find his situation very amusing. His men shared his de- 
light, and gathered around the pretty fortune-teller, ex- 
changing jests of a rather questionable character. 

Taupier alone seemed out of sorts, and his clouded brow 
testified that he still felt some distrust of Eegina. 

" Even confirmed lunatics have their lucid moments," 
he said to himself, " and I certainly wish this fool of a 
Podensac was a thousand miles off." 

He glanced at the door to see if Mouchabeuf was not 
about to make a welcome diversion, but he was probably 
busy at the stable, and Polyte was too much occupied in 
serving his customers to pay any attention to what was go- 
ing on. 

" Now let us hear what you see in my hand," said the 
captain, straightening himself up proudly, for Podensac 



THE BED BAND. 153 

was always inclined to pose in the presence of a woman; 
besides, the idea of exciting the hunchback's jealousy was 
not displeasing to him. 

Eegina did not seem to notice the movement, however; 
she was examining with profound attention the lines in the 
soldier's brawny hand. 

She was either in earnest or playing her part very clever- 
ly, for the expression of her face underwent a marked 
change as she proceeded with her examination. 

She had begun smilingly, but her face gradually clouded, 
and at last she suddenly dropped the hand she was holding 
as if she had discovered some ominous mark upon it. 

" Ah, well, what says the book of fate?" asked Podensac, 
laughing. 

The girl leaned one elbow upon the table, and shook her 
head with a gloomy air. 

" Come, use the alphabet/' continued the captain, tap- 
ping the ivory blocks with the tips of his fingers. 

Eegina gazed at him searchingly, as if to ask, " Do you 
insist?" 

At least the officer so understood it, for he replied, with 
an energetic gesture in the affirmative: 

" Come, come, my dear, go on! I'm a regular old war- 
horse, and you needn't be afraid to tell me anything you 
please." 

The young girl began to finger the blocks with wonder- 
ful rapidity, and as she did so Podensac exclaimed, almost 
involuntarily : 

"Whew! there are taper fingers and pink, almond- 
shaped nails for you! Taupier, you certainly are a clever 
rascal. " 

But it was not at Eegina's aristocratic hand that the 
hunchback was looking. He was gazing anxiously at tha 
letters she was arranging in line upon the table, and asking 
himself: 

" What is she going to say to him?" 



154 THE RED BAND. 

As the letters were one by one placed in line by the girl's 
slender fingers, Podensac spelled out the words: 

" You— will — some— day — wear — six — strips — of — gold 
— braid — on — your — sleeve. ' ' 

" A general — I am to be a general!" the captain cried, 
straightening himself up. " Ah, well! that is not impos- 
sible, and I see no reason why you should put on such a 
doleful face, my little beauty! But there seems to be a 
postscript, " he added, seeing that the girl continued to 
busy herself with the letters. 

"But you will die a violent death," were the words next 
formed under Regina's fingers. 

" That prospect is less cheering," said the future gen- 
eral; " but, nonsense! even if a bullet does put an end to 
one's life in fifteen years or so, such rapid promotion as 
you promise me makes it worth while to run the risk. But 
that is not all, it seems," he added, watching the girl's 
fingers. 

" In less than a year — " 

" SacreMeu I that's a short time. I sha'n't have a chance 
to save much of my salary. " 

"Unless—" 

" Ah! so there is a proviso! I shouldn't be sorry to live 
a little longer. Unless what?" 

" This week — you save — the life — of — some one." And 
after forming these words Regina paused, and cast a mean- 
ing look at Podensac. 

The scene was certainly a strange one. 

The citizens of the Rue Maubuee, in spite of their ad- 
miration for Voltaire, were, in their secret hearts, not 
without superstition, so they were watching the different 
phases of their commander's horoscope with evident interest. 

As for Taupier, he was still rather in doubt as to the real 
character of this sorcery, and wondered whether Regina 
was trying to devise a way to escape from his clutches, or 
whether she was really bereft of reason. 



THE BED BAND. 155 

Fortunately for him, Mouchabeuf entered just at that 
moment, and read the strange prediction upon the table. 

The two scoundrels exchanged a glance that said plainly: 

" It is time to put an end to this performance." 

" Save the life of some one," repeated Podensac. " I'm 
sure nothing would please me better provided it isn't the 
life of a Prussian." 

The deaf and dumb girl certainly could not have heard 
this remark, and yet the hunchback fancied she answered 
it with a slight shake of the head. 

" Let the girl alone," he said, rising hastily. " She has 
a sort of mania for her former profession, and I don't like 
it, for it often excites her so much as to make her really 
ill." 

" One moment, gallant Taupier, and then the consulta- 
tion will be ended. Only tell me who I am to save." 

" Captain, it is time for you to go," interposed Moucha- 
beuf. ' ' I have already been taken to task several times 
for allowing soldiers to remain here later than seven 
o'clock, and I don't want my establishment closed by the 
police." 

" Don't be alarmed, my friend. I've no intention of 
spending the night here. Just let me see what the fair 
fortune-teller has written, and I'll be off." 

" The person — you must — save — is the lieutenant." 

The reading was interrupted by an exclamation from 
Mouchabeuf, who had just stepped to the door. 

" Mille tonnerres I here is a squad of Prussians," he ex- 
claimed. 

These words were the signal for a general scattering. 

The Enf ants-Perdu s ran for their guns, and Podensac 
drew his sword. 

" I will have no fighting in my place," said Mouchabeuf, 
firmly. " Make your escape through the garden. Polyte 
will show you the way." 

" True, we arc not in force," murmured the captain, 



156 



THE BED BAND. 



following his men who were already hastening toward the 
back door. 

Taupier, who had. not lost his wits, leaned over to see the 
words the girl had formed, but she swept the letters into a 
little heap by a quick movement of her hand, then rose and. 
retreated to a corner of the room. 

" What are we to do?" inquired the hunchback, eagerly. 

" Remain where we are. They are the Pomeranians I 
spoke to you about. I know them, and we have nothing 
to fear. " 

"But how about the girl? Shall we let them see her?" 

" No. I have changed, my mind. She is too cunning, 
and I think we had better follow the original plan/' 

As he spoke he stooped and touched a board in the floor. 

A trap suddenly opened beneath the very feet of Kegina, 
who disappeared, uttering a loud cry. 

" Did you hear her scream?" exclaimed Taupier, horri- 
fied, not at the girl's fate, but at the sound she had just 
made, and its possible consequences. 

" All deaf mutes can scream, and the Prussians are too 
far off to have heard her," remarked Mouchabeuf, con- 
solingly. Since their arrival at the yellow house the pro- 
prietor had displayed much more sang-froid than the leader 
of the expedition. In the first place the boastful Taupier 
was really an arrant coward, and the clear proximity of the 
enemy had a rather demoralizing effect upon his mental 
powers. 

Mouchabeuf, though really not much more courageous, 
had the great advantage of being upon his own territory; 
besides, all the carefully laid plans of the hunchback had 
been deranged one after another by a series of unforeseen 
accidents. 

The trap-door after its fall slowly returned to its place, 
and it was only necessary for Mouchabeuf to again press 
the spring for the flooring to become firm. 

Thanks to this ingenious contrivance and the door open- 



THE RED fcAftD. 157 

hig into the garden, Regina and the sharp-shooters had dis- 
appeared with the rapidity of lightning, leaving no other 
trace of their presence than some half -empty glasses and 
the alphabet on the table. 

" Heaven grant that drunken fool of a captain will find 
his way out!" muttered the proprietor. " He is quite 
capable of losing it, and running right into the midst of 
the Germans. " 

He had scarcely uttered these words when a shrill whistle 
resounded. 

" That is Tichdorf inquiring if the way is clear, and that 
scoundrel Polyte has not returned." 

The young man thus unjustly accused reappeared at the 
very instant his master uttered his name. 

" They got off safely," he said, breathlessly. " I went 
with them to the turn of the road, and told them to keep 
quiet.' ' 

" Very well, run out, and give tbe signal for the corporal 
to bring his men in." 

Polyte rushed out with a haste that spoke ill for his pa- 
triotism ; but he had not time to go far, for the Prussians' 
footsteps were already resounding in the paved court-yard. 

"Here they are!" cried Mouchabeuf. " I am going to 
pass you off as my nephew. Tichdorf is very suspicious, 
and it may make him uneasy to see a stranger. " 

Taupier felt strongly disposed to decline this impromptu 
relationship, but it was too late to offer any objection. 

A face adorned with long yellow mustaches, a flat nose 
and a greasy cap had just appeared in the door-way, and 
this unprepossessing physiognomy belonged to a Pomeranian 
soldier, who slipped into the room with all the caution of 
that prudent race. 

He was followed by another exactly like him in appear- 
ance; then by another, and yet another, and in less than a 
minute a dozen of King William's fusiliers had entered the 
room. 



158 THE KED BAND. 

These men resembled one another so closely that only a 
practiced eye could distinguish one from another. 

The corporal was the only exception to the rule, and his 
appearance was well worth studying. 

Tall, slender, and fair-haired, and formed consequently 
upon the same model as nearly all natives of Northern 
Germany, he was the possessor of an oval face and Grecian 
nose, that contrasted strongly with the coarse features of 
his men. 

His uniform, too, was much more neat, and his care- 
fully trimmed whiskers showed that he took much more 
pains with his toilet than was usual in the Prussian camp. 

" Good-day, Father Mouchabeuf," he began in French, 
and without the slightest accent, " is there any chance 
of our warming ourselves with two or three glasses of 
brandy?' ' 

" Certainly, Monsieur Tichdorf," replied the proprietor, 
cordially. " You know very well that my cellar is at your 
disposal." 

"Your cellar? hum! I have never seen it, you old 
fraud!" rejilied the corporal, laughing; " but provided you 
bring up a couple of quarts of '36 for my men, and a bottle 
of good wine for me to drink with you, I sha'n't trouble 
myself about the contents of your cellar. " 

Taupier listened in amazement, for this foreigner's French 
would have done honor to a native born Parisian, and he 
already began to feel a vague uneasiness. 

The allusion to the cellar made his blood curdle in his 
veins, and he began to balance himself first upon one foot 
and then upon the other to conceal his embarrassment. 

While this conversation was going on, the soldiers had 
seated themselves, and with that instinct of self-preserva- 
tion that never deserts a Prussian, they had ranged them- 
selves in a semi-circle, facing the door, their guns between 
their legs, and the table in front of them to serve as a bar- 
ricade, if necessary. 



THE RED BAND. 159 

Tichdorf had placed himself astride a stool in front of 
his men, and was lighting an immense pipe. 

" You have company to-day, it seems, Father Moucha- 
beuf," he remarked, as he sent a puff of smoke up into the 
air. 

" Yes. This gentleman is my nephew, who came here 
this morning with an ambulance, and who is going to spend 
the night with me. " 

" Indeed!" exclaimed the corporal, with an incredulous 
air. "I could have sworn that I had seen this gentleman 
at the Bourse or at the Cafe de Suede/'' 

" At the Bourse," repeated Taupier, more and more dis- 
concerted. 

"True!" exclaimed Tichdorf. "It must astonish you 
to see a man who is familiar with the Cafe de Suede com- 
manding barbarians who were vegetating in the swamps of 
Koenigsberg three months ago. " 

" No," exclaimed the bewildered hunchback; " but I 
must confess — *' 

" It can be very easily explained, however, my dear sir," 
continued the good-natured corporal; " when the war broke 
out I was a clerk in the employ of a broker on the Eue de 
Richelieu, and I expect to return there when all this non- 
sense is over. But how about the cognac, Father. Moucha- 
beuf? Are we to get it to-day or to-morrow?" 

"I can't imagine what that good-for-nothing Polyte is 
doing; I'll call him." 

Tichdorf said a few words in German to his men, while 
the proprietor shouted lustily for his factotum. 

There was no response. 

" I shouldn't be surprised to find that the fool had gone 
to Malmaison m search of dead horses," growled Moucha- 
beuf, for Polyte had been carrying on quite a lucrative busi- 
ness in the sale of horse-flesh for some time past. 

"Why, here's an alphabet!" exclaimed the corporal, 
suddenly. " Are there any children about?" 



160 THE BED BAND. 

Taupier was about to reply when a singular noise made 
him start. 

Some one seemed to be rapping upon the floor beneath 
their feet. 

The Prussians sprung up and glanced anxiously around 
them. The corporal alone seemel unmoved, but his 
face suddenly assumed an expression of malevolent curi- 
osity. 

" Did you hear that?" he asked, looking the hunchback 
straight in the eyes. " Can it be that there are ghosts 
about your establishment, Father Mouchabeuf ?" 

"It is the wind, corporal/' replied the proprietor, with 
evident embarrassment. 

"The wind — down in your cellar? Nonsense! You 
can't make me believe that, you old humbug!" 

" But I assure you, Monsieur Tichdorf — " 

" Look here," interrupted that gentleman curtly, " it is 
very evident that there are Frenchmen here. That is as 
plain as the nose on one's face, and if you think of pla3'ing 
any trick upon me and my men you had better say so, or 
I'll have you shot this very second — you and this gentle- 
man here who is no more your nephew than I am the son 
of old Bismarck. ' ' 

" Oh, Monsieur Tichdorf, you certainly would not treat 
an old friend like that!" faltered Mouchabeuf, who had 
turned very pale. 

" It is well to take one's precautions, especially as I have 
no desire to return to Paris as a prisoner of war. It would 
interfere too much with my operations at the Bourse." 

And turning, the corporal gave his men some brief orders 
in the German tongue. It was not necessary for a person 
to be familiar with that language to understand that he had 
advised them to be on their guard, for the Pomeranians in- 
stantly seized their weapons. 

Two of them stationed themselves at the door opening 
into the road; two others placed themselves at the foot of 



THE RED BAND. 101 

the winding staircase, and Tichdorf stepped up to the 
hunchback. « 

The latter was beginning to heartily curse the weakness 
that had placed him in this perilous position, and he cast 
terrified glances at the soldiers whose manner was by no 
means reassuring, for the non-appearance of the brandy 
had put them in execrable humor, and they were rolling 
their eyes wildly about and gnawing their long mustaches 
furiously. 

''Now, Father Mouchabeuf,' ' resumed the corporal, 
tranquilly, " let us proceed more systematically. The 
sound came from your cellar, and I suppose the corks of 
your champagne bottles scarcely pop as noisily as that." 

" It is certainly Polyte. The scoundrel must have 
broken something/ ' said the proprietor, delighted to have 
found a tolerably plausible explanation at last. 

" Still another falsehood, my friend. If it was Polyte, 
he would have been up here before this time. It strikes 
me that the hour has come for you to make the tour of this 
famous cellar with me, if only to see if your stock of brandy 
is complete/ ' 

Poor Mouchabeuf nearly fainted on hearing this direct 
invitation. Even in ordinary times he guarded with zealous 
care all approach to this cellar, in which he stored his pro- 
visions and liquors, but this evening the prospect of such 
an invasion was a thousand times more frightful. 

The idea of bringing Eegina in his friend Tichdorf 's pres- 
ence was all the more appalling to him, as his plans in re- 
gard to her had undergone an entire change. When he 
first took her under his protection, on the bank of the 
canal, he supposed her well-nigh an idiot, and he had based 
his hopes of personal safety principally upon his victim's 
infirmity. But since he had. witnessed the scene with Po- 
densac, he had become entirely of Taupier's opinion, and 
he thought now only of getting her safely out of the way as 
soon as possible; and to show her to the corporal, especially 



162 



THE RED BAND. 



after the personal violence to which she had just been sub- 
jected, was to expose himself to a very dangerous charge. 
The alphabet was still on the table, and the girl had shown 
that she knew how to use it. 

" Come," said the Prussian, " show my men the way." 

Mouchabeuf did not move. 

" Shall we not have the pleasure of your nephew's com- 
pany on our underground excursion?" asked Tichdorf, 
maliciously. 

It was the hunchback's turn to tremble now. 

He had, in fact, been cutting a sorry figure for the last 
quarter of an hour, however. His gorilla-like hands were 
continually traveling to his forehead to wipe away the sweat 
that was oozing from every pore, and his crooked knees 
tottered under liim. He, too, realized that the corporal 
would not be a safe confidant, and to speak seemed to him 
even more dangerous than to be silent. 

" "Well, what are you going to do?" insisted the relent- 
less corporal. 

'' I— I haven't the key to the cellar," stammered Mouch- 
abeuf. 

"Bah! Where is it?" 

" Poly to took it when he went to get the brandy, and — " 

" And Polyte has mysteriously disappeared, of course?" 

" He must h:ive gone to the place where they were fight- 
ing yesterday. If there is a horse killed anywhere within a 
league of here nothing will do but he must start out after it. " 

" Father Mouchabeuf, you must have a very poor opin- 
ion of my mental powers, if you think that I will swallow 
any such yarns as these you have just been spinning for my 
benefit. I warn you that I've had enough of them and 
that I'm going to take my men away. Your brandy would 
cost us too dear." 

" As you please, Monsieur Tichdorf," rep li ed the •_ 

etor, greatly relieved; "but I give yon my worf] nf 
honor—" J 



THE BED BAND. 163 

" Only before I leave I intend to take my precautions," 
continued the implacable corporal, motioning his host to be 
silent. " You must understand that, though I like to 
drink a glass of wine, smoke a good cigar, and read a pa- 
per here, I can not expose myself to any danger of being 
taken prisoner. That being the case, you must make way 
for some one else." 

" Make way for some one else!" repeated Mouchabeuf, 
in the utmost bewilderment. 

" Yes; give up your establishment and all it contains to 
somebody else. " 

" I — I don't understand you/' murmured the wretched 
host. 

" It seems to me that I make my meaning very plain, 
however. Suppose, for instance, that you and your 
nephew should have a stroke of apoplexy this evening, and 
that the authorities of Eueil should come to verify the re- 
port of your sudden decease, what would happen?" 

" But we are not ill!" exclaimed Mouchabeuf, vehe- 
mently. 

" Possibly not; but we are all mortal. Would not the 
result be that the aforesaid authorities would place another 
tavern-keeper here, with whom I could speedily arrive at 
an understanding, and who would not try to play any tricks 
upon one? You see I should be greatly the gainer by the 
stroke of apoplexy referred to. " 

" You must be jesting, Monsieur Tichdorf," said the 
host, huskily. 

" Not at all, as you will soon Bee," replied the implaca- 
ble corporal. 

And he gave an order in German to his men, who in- 
stantly collared the two Frenchmen and pushed them up 
against the wall. 

" You are not going to shoot us, I hope?" cried Taupier, 
struggling violently, but vainly, against his captors. 

" That is it precisely, my dear sir," replied Tichdorf. 



164 «IE RED UAisi). 



<( 



But it would be infamous! I protest against such an 
outrage!" yelled the hunchback. 

" What else can you expect? I had confidence in your 
uncle, but that is all gone now; besides — " 

" Monsieur Tichdorf, I swear to you, by all that is most 
sacred, that there is no one in the cellar," gasped the terri- 
fied Mouchabeuf, " and — " 

The unfortunate man did not finish the sentence, for he 
was interrupted by three still more violent blows upon the 
floor. 

" What did I tell you?" exclaimed the corporal. " You 
see, I have no time to lose. 

" Load!" he added, turning to his men. 

The order was promptly obeyed. 

"Mercy, mercy!" yelled the hunchback and Moucha- 
beuf in the same breath. ' ' We will ojsen the cellar. " 

" Open the cellar," repeated Tichdorf, with a diabolical 
smile; " but what good will that do if there is no one 
there?" 

"But there is," replied Mouchabeuf, who had lost his 
wits so completely that he no longer knew what he was say- 
ing. 

"Yes, yes; there is a woman in the cellar!" cried the 
hunchback, hoping this confession would save him. 

The soldiers stood with weapons ready, and only one 
more word was needed to dispatch the two wretches to an- 
other world; but the corporal seemed to take pleasure in 
prolonging their sufferings. 

" A woman," he said, shaking his head; " the sharp- 
shooter's cantiniere, probably. " 

"No; I swear that it is not, Monsieur Tichdorf," fal- 
tered Mouchabeuf. " It is a young girl, and she is really 
very pretty. ' ' 

" Impossible!" cried the corporal, with an incredulous 
smile. " What! there is a pretty girl in the house, and 
you have concealed the fact from me? That is certainly 



THE BED BAND, 105 

very inconsiderate in you, Father Mouchabeuf, when you 
know that I have a weakness for a pretty face!" 

" You shall see for yourself.' ' 

"No; I haven't time," retorted Tichdorf, " and I am 
an idiot to stand here fooling with you, when the sharp- 
shooters may be upon us at any moment." 

And he again turned to his soldiers. 

Taupier suddenly fell upon his knees, and Mouchabeuf 
clasped his hands, crying, imploringly: 

"Forgive me! Have mercy upon me! The cellar is 
empty, and I will conduct you through it myself." 

" Mouchabeuf, my friend, you are always singing the 
same song, and it is becoming tiresome. " 

The Pomeranians still held their loaded guns in their 
hands; some had even raised them to their shoulders. 

But the corporal, instead of giving the order to fire, con- 
tinued, in a drawling tone : 

" Besides, it is useless to talk of opening the cellar, as 
you say that Polyte took the key away with him." 

"But—" 

" There is no but about it. I have no intention of run- 
ning after your boy, or of waiting for his return, so we had 
better end the matter here and now." 

Mouchabeuf uttered a positive shriek of terror. 

" There, there!" he tried to articulate, pointing to the 
corner of the room. 

" Well, what of it? Is there a secret door leading down 
into the cellar?" 

" No, it is a trap-door," said Mouchabeuf, with great 
difficulty, for the words seemed to stick in his throat. 

"Indeed!" exclaimed Tichdorf, bursting into a coarse 
laugh. " A trap-door! Why, your establishment is ar- 
ranged like the stage of a theater. I have good grounds for 
my suspicions, it seems. Still, I am a good-natured fellow, 
as you know," he. continued, " and I should like to investi- 
gate the matter further, if only to gratify my curiosity. 



166 THE RED BAND. 

Where is this famous trap-door? In that corner, I sup- 
pose?" 

" Yes; I will show it to you." 

Mouchabeuf advanced a few steps, then stooped and 
pressed a spring. The trap-door fell instantly, disclosing 
the void below. 

Tichdorf leaned cautiously over the opening, but saw 
nothing. 

" Here is the trap-door. That is something, I admit, 
but now, where is the woman?" 

" Down in the cellar." 

" If you suppose I am going down in search of her only 
to find myself and my men in a trap, you are very much 
mistaken, Mouchabeuf." 

" But—" 

"Call the girl, you idiot! If she is alive she'll come, 
for she can't find it very pleasant down in that hole." 

" But she's deaf and dumb." 

"A very clever excuse that, but it won't go down with 
me. I want to see her, and at once, even if she's blind 
into the bargain. Your nephew is going down to fetch 
her, and if he has not returned at the end of five minutes 
I shall have you shot and then set fire to the house." 

" He will return within that time, Monsieur Tichdorf, I 
assure you that he will," replied Mouchabeuf, plucking 
Taupier by the sleeve, as if to beg him to make haste. 

The hunchback, in spite of the wholesome terror which 
the loaded rifles inspired, seemed greatly averse to explor- 
ing the gloomy depths below. He knew nothing about the 
arrangement of the cellar; besides, he feared to meet his 
victim there. 

" I — I don't know the way, " muttered Taupier, despair- 
ingly. 

"You can jump down. There's a mattress there," 
hastily answered the proprietor, who was equally averse to 
making this exploring expedition. 



THE RED BAND. 167 

" Come, come, go ahead, my dear sir," urged the cor- 
poral. " You will be perfectly safe, as your uncle assures 
us there is a mattress there for you to jump upon." 

" And a ladder to come back by," added Mouchabeuf. 

The unfortunate hunchback was certainly in a sorry 
plight between the gulf yawning at his feet and the bay- 
onets threatening him in the rear. 

But he had decided to make the venture, and leaning 
over the opening, he had already assumed the attitude of 
Curtius ready to leap into the gulf, when an unexpected 
apparition made him hastily recoil, for from the gloom 
that filled the cellar gradually emerged the lovely head and 
shoulders of Eegina. 

" So you told the truth for once!" exclaimed the cor- 
poral. 

Strange to say, Mouchabeuf really had not told a false- 
hood for an hour, and what he had said about the mattress 
and the ladder was perfectly true. 

The trap served two purposes. 

In case of necessity the proprietor of the establishment 
could thus vanish from sight, not only instantaneously but 
safely. 

Once in the cellar he had only to press a spring for the 
door to return to its place, and he could then either remain 
there until all danger was past, or make his escape through 
a cellar door that opened into the garden. 

If, on the contrary, it became necessary to rid himself of 
an intruder or an enemy, the trap was worked in the same 
way, but it was only necessary to remove the mattress to 
make the fall exceedingly dangerous. 

This last case being most rare, the mattress was almost 
always in place, and on this particular evening the pro- 
prietor had taken neither the time nor the precaution to 
remove it. 

The Pomeranians, though not very impressionable, re- 
coiled in surprise and almost terror from this lovely form, 



lb'3 THE BED BAXD. 

which gradually rose from the void as if lifted by an invisi- 
ble spring, and Mouchabeuf and Taupier gazed at each 
other with undisguised anxiety. Tichdorf alone appeared 
wholly unmoved, and stepping forward he offered his hand 
to Regina with as much ease as if he was merely inviting 
her to waltz. 

" I am rejoiced to see that your sojourn in that gloomy 
hole has not impaired your beauty, my fair lady," he said, 
in his most gallant tones. 

" She can neither hear nor speak," Mouchabeuf made 
haste to say. 

The girl led the corporal toward the table. There she 
seated herself, and instantly began to form the letters which 
were lying there into words. 

" What is she going to say to him?" thought the two 
scoundrels. 

" Why, it is German," said the corporal. 

Mouchabeuf and Taupier exchanged glances of conster- 
nation. Neither of them understood the language of the 
Prussians, and their dismay imparted a most comical ex- 
pression to their countenances. 

The scene that had just occurred in the presence of Po- 
densac was now repeated, with this difference, the two cul- 
prits could understand nothing of it. 

Tichdorf began to spell: 

" Vollei* Sie micli nach Saint Germain fuhren?" (Will 
you take me to Saint Germain:) 

" To Saint Germain!" repeated the corporal. "' That's 
a droll idea, certainly." 

Then he added, in German: 

" J a wolil." (Yes, certainly.) 

" She can't understand you," said Mouchabeuf. 

Still the nod of acquiescence that accompanied the cor- 
poral's response must have satisfied the girl that her re- 
quest would be granted. 

But what was the request? That was exactly what 



THE JiED BAND. 169 

Taupier and his accomplice longed to know, but they dared 
not question the Prussian for fear of seeming too inquisi- 
tive, and thus exciting his suspicions. 

Two French words, and the only ones that had appeared 
in the sentence composed by Kegina, had struck them both 
very forcibly, particularly the hunchback. She had made 
some allusion to Saint Germain, that was evident, and this 
fact was well calculated to arouse Taupier' s anxiety. 

The countenance of the young girl brightened when she 
found that Tichdorf was willing to comply with her re- 
quest. She immediately began to manipulate the letters 
again, and her nimble fingers soon formed these words: 

"' Ich danhe Umen. Lasst un$ gehm." (I thank you. 
Let us go. ) 

She had scarcely completed the sentence before she rose, 
and her manner plainly indicated both gratitude and a de- 
sire to start at once. 

The corporal motioned her to reseat herself, saying to 
her softly, in French: 

"'Presently." 

"She has asked him to take her away. That is very 
evident," thought Taupier. 

An examination seemed imminent. 

Tichdorf was scrutinizing the countenances of Moucha- 
beuf and his friend, and they could hardly hope that he 
would go away without demanding an explanation. 

Mouchabeuf had already prepared his story, and the 
hunchback was trying hard to invent some plausible tale. 

The great difficulty was to arrive at a mutual under- 
standing without speaking to each other, and the two 
scoundrels found themselves very much in the situation of 
two culprits who are brought before a magistrate without 
having had any opportunity to confer with each other. 

""Who is this young girl:" the corporal at last asked, 
dryly. 

" I was just going to tell you, Monsieur Tichdorf," re- 



170 THE BED BAND. 

plied Mouchabeuf, stammeringly. " She is a relative of 
my nephew's. " 

" What is she doing here, and why did you hide her in 
the cellar?" 

" Why, you See, she is very pretty, and here, in a tavern, 
frequented by all sorts of people — of course, I am not allud- 
ing to you or your men — but those sharp-shooters of ours 
have no respect for anything — so — " 

" Very good; but all this doesn't explain how you came 
to bring her here, and the very next day after a battle, too, 
when a young and pretty woman has no business gallivant- 
ing about the outposts. " 

Mouchabeuf gave Taupier a quick glance that said as 
plainly as any words: 

" Pay attention now, and hear what I'm going to 
say. " 

"Ah, well," he exclaimed suddenly, with the air of a 
man who has decided to make a painful confession, ' ' I 
have great confidence in you, and I am going to tell you 
all." 

" Go on, then, I am in a hurry." 

" Well, the state of the case is briefly this. The girl is 
of highly respectable parentage, a relative of my nephew, 
as I said before, but she has turned out badly. " 

"What! a deaf mate? You astonish me," said Tich- 
dorf, ironically. 

" Oh, she's as cunning as a fox, and she knows how to 
make herself understood, as you saw for yourself just now. 
She has given her parents no end of trouble. Would you 
believe it, she even ran away from home to go roaming 
about the country with a circus performer?" 

"All this is certainly very remarkable," observed the 
corporal, incredulously. 

" Yes, upon my word! — with a sort of clown who taught 
her to tell fortunes and play all sorts of- tricks. Her 
parents were highly incensed, of course, and they sent her 



THE BED BAND. 171 

to me in the hope that I should be able to' bring her to her 
senses. " 

" So I suppose it was to punish her that you shut her up 
in the cellar?" 

"Exactly; but I had no intention of leaving her there. 
Good heavens! no; I have a room upstairs for her, and in 
about a fortnight, after my nephew and I have talked to 
her and reasoned with her, we shall send her back to her 
father, though, to tell the truth, I have very little hope of 
reforming her. The acrobat she is so infatuated with is in 
Paris, and he is quite capable of enticing her away again. 
If her parents would listen to me they would do with her 
exactly what they would do with a young man when he 
seems likely to be anything but a comfort to them; send 
her out to the colonies. '' 

" That would be a rather difficult matter just at this 
time, " remarked the Prussian. 

" True, and we shall be obliged, of course, to keep her as 
long as the siege lasts. Ah! any one who took her off our 
hands would be doing us a great favor. " 

While Mouchabeuf was uttering this long string of false- 
hoods Begin a sat with one elbow resting upon the table, 
while she toyed abstractedly with the ivory blocks. Tau- 
pier, on the contrary, was listening with all his ears to the 
story invented by his accomplice. The beginning pleased 
him greatly, but the tavern-keeper's last remark spoiled 
everything. 

Tins direct invitation to the Prussians to take the ftirl 
away with them was a terrible mistake in his eyes, for the 
hunchback, more discerning than his subordinate, was be- 
ginning to suspect the truth. 

He would have paid handsomely for an opportunity to 
take Mouchabeuf aside and counsel him, but it was too 
late. 

" Fool that I was!" he thought, biting his finger nails. 
" Why didn't I pitch them both into the canal?" 



172 THE BED BAXD. 

" So her relatives would like to get rid of her?" inquired 
the corporal. " Are they rich?" 

"Well, no," replied Mouchabeuf, a little nervouslj. 
" They are in tolerably comfortable circumstances, that is 
all." 

" Very well, then it is a bargain. You are to give me 
two thousand francs, in gold, understand, and I'll take the 
girl away with me. " 

" Two thousand francs. Why, I haven't that amount 
here, Monsieur Tichdorf, and I sha'n't be able to get it for 
you until after I have seen her parents. ' ' 

" Nonsense! you old fraud! Don't say any more to me 
about her parents. Why, here's your nephew. I am sure 
he has a pocketful of napoleons, and he certainly will not 
let such a good opportunity slip for the sake of a few shil- 
lings." 

As he spoke the corporal turned to Taupier, who found 
himself in the most trying situation conceivable. Though 
sure now that his accomplice had made a mistake, he could 
not contradict his statements without deeply compromising 
himself. 

He attempted to extricate himself from the dilemma by 
evading the question. 

" I haven't the money about me," he faltered. 

But even as he spoke he betrayed himself by a gesture, 
for without even knowing it, he raised his hand to his 
breast-pocket as if to protect the plethoric purse there, for 
the hunchback, being as miserly as his friend Valnoir was 
extravagant, be invariably carried all his worldly posses- 
sions about with him. 

"Fudge! that's all nonsense!" said Tichdorf. "Look 
carefully in your pocket, and I am sure that you will find 
the trifle 1 ask for there." 

" No, I assure you," stammered Taupier, who was 
choking with rage. 

" Would yon like two of my men to aid you in the ex- 



The red hand. 173 

animation of your waistcoat-pocket?' ' asked the corporal, 
with a diabolical grin. 

On hearing this proposal the hunchback started as if he 
had stepped upon a serpent. The bare idea of Prussian 
hands in his pockets made his hair stand upon end. 

He saw that he had better submit to the inevitable. 

" On reflection/' he muttered, " I believe that I can. I 
had forgotten that, only this morning, a sum of money was 
paid me, and — " 

" I felt sure that we should come to an understanding 
eventually, my dear sir," said Tichdorf, holding out his 
hand for the money. 

Taupier, with frightful contortions of visage, drew two 
rolls of gold from his pocket, and handed them to the 
dread corporal with a sigh so deep as to strongly resemble 
a groan. 

"Very good!" exclaimed the Prussian. "I will take 
the young woman away with me, and I promise you that 
her family shall not hear of her again for some time." 

Eegina was ready. Tichdorf gave an order to his men, 
who formed into line on either side of the young girl, and 
he then departed at the head of the cortege. " 

The two scoundrels looked at each other in blank dismay. 

" It cost you considerable," remarked Mouchabeuf, as 
soon as the corporal was out of hearing, " but we are at 
least rid of the creature." 

" Fool!" cried Taupier, in a furious passion, "you did 
exactly what she wanted you to do. You have sent her to 
Saint Germain to rejoin the man who may ruin us all. " 



CHAPTER VIII. 

The roofs were covered with snow, and a freezing north 
wind was playing havoc among the withered leaves of the 
lindens on the Rue de Laval. 

A man wa3 slowly walking up and down the sidewalk in 



174 THE KEU BA.HD. 

front of the gate through which Taupier's band had passed 
on the night of Begina's abduction, six weeks before. 

Surmounted by a hat of pyramidal form, and enveloped 
in a green overcoat several inches shorter than the blue coat 
beneath it, this peculiar-looking individual was the very 
type of the undisciplined National Guard so common to- 
ward the close of the siege; still, by his gold-bound specta- 
cles and white cravat, a resident of the neighborhood 
would have instantly recognized in him Citizen JBourignard, 
the concierge of a large house on the Eue de Navarin. 

Just at that moment the street was absolutely deserted. 
The clocks of the city had just struck nine, and a large 
crowd of people was still standing in line in front of each 
butcher's shop, each person patiently awaiting his or her 
turn, armed with the card that the municipal government 
had issued to each household. '/r^r 

Still, the dignified concierge was not alone. Around him 
gamboled an urchin clad in a sailor suit that seemed to 
have been dragged through the gutter, so thickly was it 
covered with mud and dirt. 

The boy's pale, sharp face was nearly concealed by an 
immense broad-brimmed hat that came down over his ears, 
so little could be seen except his tongue, which was inces- 
santly poked out, and as quickly withdrawn whenever the 
sentinel turned. 

This ironical grimace, too, was all the more reprehensi- 
ble from the fact that it was addressed to the author of his 
being, for the urchin was none other than the youthful 
Agricola, son of the virtuous Bourignard, a concierge by 
trade and a Jacobin by vocation. 

In honor of the famous Griugalet, who was to disable all 
the enemy's batteries at a siugle shot, his father had pur- 
chased for him a blue flannel suit lavishly adorned with gold 
anchors, but this gorgeous attire had effected no radical 
change in the habits of Agricola, who continued to play truant 
from school and to hang about the neighboring barracks. 



THE BED BAXI>. 175 

Iu speaking of his heir-presumptive, Bourignard always 
remarked that he had the instincts of a wild horse of the 
plains, and in his education he had adopted the theories of 
Jean Jacques Kousseau, his favorite author. 

The natural consequence of this was that Agricola was 
regarded as a blockhead at school, and as a perfect torment 
in the neighborhood in wbich he lived. 

It was rarely, indeed, that this child of nature consented 
to accompany his father, but on this particular occasion the 
concierge doubtless had good reasons for dragging his in- 
domitable offspring along in his wake. Pausing in his walk, 
he finally planted himself directly in front of the wall that 
concealed the cottage from sight, and began polishing his 
glasses with feverish activity. 

'"' Strange to say, this inclosure seems to have no other 
outlet than a knobless door," he said to himself. " I really 
do not see how I am to perform Citizen Taupier's com- 
mission." 

This soliloquy was interrupted by the shrill voice of his 
son who began to sing at the top of his voice a refrain then 
very popular in the rather uncultured region of Belleville. 

" Bismarck, if you persist, 
Of the whole Prussian army there'll remain not one." 

"Enough!" exclaimed Bourignard, with an imposing 
gesture. " The song is patriotic, but unseasonable just at 
the present time. " 

"Unseasonable, unseasonable:" mocked the gamin, 
with the true faubourg drawl. 

" Yes, my son; unseasonable, inasmuch as I am charged 
with a confidential mission, and do not wish to arouse the 
suspicions of the aristocrats who dwell within these walls." 

" Of the whole Prussian army there'll remain not one," 

continued the irreverent Agrjeola, in still more piercing 
tones. 

Si I must gain an entrance by strategy," continued the 



176 THE RED BA^'D. 

dignified porter, " and it was to assist me in this difficult 
undertaking that T brought vou here. I trust, Agricola, 
that you will justify my confidence.'"' 

" Your confidence! I'd rather have a sis sous piece." 

" And vou shall, if vou will find a wav of effecting an 
entrance into this feudal abode for me." 

'"'And what's a feudal abode:'' inquired the charming 
child, all the while jumping up and down in a mud 
puddle. 

"'It is the dwelling-place of the upholders of tyranny, 
my son, " 

" I don't understand," sneered the c;amii>. 

" This wall you see here shelters enemies of the people, 
to sav nothing of the fact that it incloses ground which 
would be much better employed if homes for the laboring- 
class were constructed upon it. " 

" And a porter's lodge, eh, papa?'' 

" As to the garden behind it, it would nourish twenty 
families if planted with vegetables." 

'■' I don't care anything about all that." cried Agricola, 
who never hesitated to interrupt his respectable parent's 
discourses. "'•' "What have 1 got to do to earn six sous? 
that's what I want to know." 

' ; I want to speak to a person of the male sex degraded 
enough to serve the two aristocrats who reside in this cot- 
tage." 

'"' Oh! that old fellow in the green coat? I know him! 
I gave him a kick yesterday, as he was coming out of the 
grocer's shop. If you want to see him, why don't you ring 
the bell:" 

" You are young, my son, and you don't know the wiles 
of the aristocracy," replied Bourignard, gravely. *'■' In the 
first place there is no bell, and even if you rapped all day 
nobody would open the daor. These people are conspira- 
tors, and to gain an entrance into their abode one must 
know the signal." 



THE RED BAND. 177 

'* Oh, must one?" sneered the boy. " You just wait a 
second and I'll give them a signal." 

And, picking a stone up out of the mud, the young rascal 
pitched it over the wall with so much skill and force that 
they could hear it strike the roof of the cottage. 

" Now glue yourself to the door, papa, and you'll see 
the result prest a -ly. " 

" That boy has a master mind, unquestionably," mut- 
tered Bourignard, as he executed the maneuver described 
by his ingenious heir. 

There was no response to this rather peremptory sum- 
mons, but Agricola was persevering, and three or four more 
projectiles described the same curve, and fell upon the cot- 
tage roof. 

After four or five minutes of this exercise, the young 
scapegrace had the unspeakable satisfaction of seeing the 
door open a few inches, and a gray head peer out. 

This was the moment that young Bourignard had been 
waiting for. 

Another stone, skillfully directed, struck the legs of the 
imprudent man, who had just appeared in sight, and 
the promising child started off on a run toward the Rue des 
Martyrs. 

" You shall pay for this, you young rascal!" yelled the 
man, fiercely, pulling the door to behind him, and darting 
off in pursuit of the offender, without even noticing Bourig- 
nard. 

Landreau, for it was he who had been lm'ed to the spot 
by Agricola's ruse, did not take time to reflect, unfortu- 
nately, for it would certainly have been much better for 
him to have re-entered the house; but the stone had bruised 
his knee, and not being of a particularly patient disposition, 
lie could not resist the desire to punish the offender, and 
began the chase with the same ardor he would have dis- 
played in pursuing a poacher through the forest of Saint 
Senior. 



-178 THE BED BAND. 

But Agricola was a good runner. 

By the time Landreau reached the corner of the street 
the young imp was rounding the corner of the Avenue 
Turdaine, and the old gamekeeper, having had time to be- 
come calmer, decided that it would be wiser to abandon the 
chase, especially as he was bare-headed, and clad in the old 
green jacket which was so out of harmony with the rest of 
his attire. 

This in itself was enough to attract the attention of 
passers-by. Besides, a man who is running is always re- 
garded with suspicion, and Landreau's odd costume and 
excited manner were instantly remarked by the citizens who 
were standing in line in front of a butcher's shop near 

by- 

" Look at that old man running!" cried one. 

" He must be a thief!" exclaimed another. 

" Stop him!" shouted a third. 

" Stop thief!" yelled a fourth. 

Such exclamations as these resounded on every side, and 
an ominous excitement was apparent in the crowd. 

Two of the National Guard, stationed there to preserve 
order, stepped out from the group to check the old man's 
progress. Landreau decided that by running away he 
would only increase the excitement; besides, he had the 
best of reasons for not desiring to attract any soldiers to the 
cottage, so ke quietly awaited the approach of the guard. 

" Whither are you going in such hot haste, citizen?" in- 
quired one of the men. 

Before Landreau could find an answer quite a little crowd 
had gathered around them, and a small deformed man, who 
by a vigorous use of his elbows had succeeded in securing a 
place in the front row of spectators, asked, authoritatively: 

" What's the matter here?" 

" I don't know yet, Citizen Taupier," exclaimed one of 
the soldiers. " This fellow was running at the top of his 
speed, and he must have some reason for it," 



THE RED BAND. 179 

; " I'm inclined to think that he's a deserter/' said the 
hunchback. " Look at his blue trousers." 

" That is true!" cried the soldiers and civilians in concert. 

'* I'm no deserter," cried Landreau, energetically. 

" Then how does it happen that you have on the regula- 
tion trousers?" demanded Taupier. 

"What business is that of yours, bandy-legs?" retorted 
the gamekeeper, whose late experience with Agricola had 
quite exhausted his stock of patience. 

" Citizens, I call upon you all to witness that this man 
refuses to explain his strange conduct," cried the hunch- 
back, " so there must be something wrong." 

" But what right have you to question me? I don't 
know you, and I have no desire to know you. " 

" That is very possible, but I speak in the name of the 
people, who have a right to know all," replied Taupier, in 
the impressive tones he usually reserved for his speeches at 
the political clubs. 

" Yes, yes; he must answer," shouted the crowd. 

" One doesn't 'run like that when one hasn't been doing 
anything wrong," remarked an old woman laden with an 
immense basket. 

" I'll bet he's from Brittany," remarked a by-stander. 

''It's false! I am from Burgundy," exclaimed Lan- 
dreau, carried away by local patriotism. 

" That amounts to the same thing/' yelled a gamin who 
had no regard for geograjmy. 

" Do you belong to the gardes mobiles, yes or no?" asked 
a by-stander, who seemed much more sensible than those 
around him. 

"lam too old for that/' replied the gray-headed game- 
keeper, evasively. 

" Then you have no right to wear a uniform. The ille- 
gal wearing of a uniform constitutes a criminal offense," 
said one of the guards, who must have formerly been em- 
ployed as clerk in a lawyer's oflice, 



180 THE BED BAND. 

" Citizens, this man is certainly a suspicious character/' 
remarked Taupier, gravely. 

" He should be arrested," added the old woman. " I am 
satisfied of that." 

" Certainly. There's no doubt of it! To the station- 
house with him!" shouted the crowd, which had greatly 
increased in size. 

The new-comers could not see what was going on, and 
shouted only from, a spirit of imitation, but those in the 
middle of the circle were becoming more and more un- 
friendly to Landreau. 

" Why do you want to take me to the station-house, 
pray?" asked the old man, forcing himself to appear calm. 

" To teach you to answer when you are spoken to, you 
old fool," yelled an exasperated citizen. 

" It's enough to make one's blood boil to see these vaga- 
bonds loafing about the streets while my poor husband, a 
sergeant in the Cist, is nearly dead from standing guard at 
the bastion every day," growled the owner of the big 
basket. 

In crowds, as well as in debating societies, there is always 
a conservative element, and in this case it found a spokes- 
man in the proprietor of a neighboring grocery store. 

" Perhaps the poor old man is not in the army after all," 
ventured this well-meaning personage. " I think it would 
be much better to take him to his home, where he would 
have a chance to prove his identity than to drag him to the 
station-house.'" 

" No, no; it would be much better for him to explain to 
the proper authorities," cried Taupier, to whom this con- 
ciliatory proposal was eminently unwelcome. 

" Still, if he lives near here, it would save trouble. 
Where do you reside, citizen?" 

Landreau opened his lips to reply, but the thought of 
leading this dangerous crowd to the cottage made him sud* 
denly change his mind, 



THE RED BAND. 181 

He blushed, stammered a little, and finally made this 
most imprudent response: 

" It's none of your business, and I'm not going to tell 
you." 

" Do you hear that, citizens?" yelled the triumphant 
hunchback. "He absolutely refuses to answer. And he 
must have his reasons, of course." 

The by-standers were all of one mind now; all united in 
clamoring for his arrest, and the two representatives of 
armed force present could no longer hesitate to obey the 
rather boisterously expressed will of the sovereign peo- 
ple. 

After exchanging a hasty glance they stepped a little 
closer to the old gamekeeper, and one of them remarked, 
in an insinuating tone: 

" Come, citizen, it is better to go of one's own accord 
than to be obliged to yield to force. " 

But before they could place their hands upon his shoul- 
ders Landreau bounded back and clinched his fists, while 
his face expressed such a firm determination to defend him- 
self that a space was instantly cleared around him, and the 
two members of the National Guard, now thoroughly 
frightened, turned their bayonets upon him. 

This imprudent act only increased Landreau' s exaspera- 
tion, and suddenly hurling his assailants aside with the 
quickness of lightning he tore the gun from the hands of 
one of them, and assumed a defensive attitude. 

This resolute act created the utmost alarm in the throng, 
which opened before him with a celerity that furnished 
conclusive proof of the marvelous elasticity of crowds in 
general. 

A second before a child could not have found standing 
room, yet the bit of sharp iron had suddenly opened a pas- 
sage-way wide enough for three men, and Landreau lost 
no time in availing himself of this opportunity for escape. 

" Murder! murder! Death to the assassin!" 



182 THE RED BANE. 

These and similar cries resounded behind him, and the 
more courageous among the crowd started in pursuit of the 
fugitive. 

The old servant had taken good care not to run in the 
direction of the cottage, but toward the Avenue Trudaine, 
and the first moment of surprise having given him a start 
of about fifteen yards, he felt strong hopes of eventually 
distancing his pursuers if he could only reach some of the 
small streets and lanes that lead down to the outer boule- 
vard. 

But he had not made due allowance for Agricola. That 
young scoundrel, whose attention had been attracted by 
the crowd that gathered around Landreau, had retraced 
his steps, and though he had not deemed it advisable to 
mingle with it — imitating in this the example of his worthy 
parent, who had quietly returned to the Eue de Navarin — 
he stationed himself at the corner of the avenue to enjoy 
the fun. 

When he saw Landreau turn his steps in that direction 
the idea of arresting the fugitive's progress instantly oc- 
curred to him, and as the poor gamekeeper turned the 
corner the young imp ran between his legs and threw him 
fiat upon the ground. 

He had not time to rise. Before he could get upon his 
feet again he was seized by a dozen strong hands, disarmed, 
and tossed about like a bale of merchandise. 

Further resistance was useless, and Landreau did not 
even attempt it. 

Taupier, though not much of a runner, had rejoined the 
party as soon as his distorted limbs would permit, and now 
assumed the command. 

" Citizens!" he said, impressively, " this man is evident- 
ly a great culprit, and there can be little doubt that this is 
one of the cases in which the people should take the law 
into their own hands. " 

" Yes, yes, hang him to the nearest lamp-post! To the 



THE BED BAND. 183 

river with him!" yelled the crowd, ferocious in its anger, 
and Landreau would have been killed on the spot if his 
persecutors had been armed. 

" This way! this way, citizens!" cried Agricola, jump- 
ing up and down in fiendish glee. " I know a good place 
to hang the aristocrat. " 

A little further down the avenue stood the unfinished 
buildings of Eollin College, and Agricola's suggestion be- 
ing enthusiastically received, the crowd took up its line of 
march. 

In less troublous times a scene like this would have been 
impossible in the heart of Paris, but the state of unhealthy 
excitement that had so long prevailed in the city had 
wrought a complete change in the habits and manners of 
its inhabitants. The honest citizen who, before the war, 
had the word equality ever upon his lips, now talked only 
of imprisoning and shooting men without even the sem- 
blance of a trial. The female sex was, of course, peculiarly 
susceptible to the demoralizing influence of the privations 
and anxiety caused by the siege, and after three or four 
hours of waiting in front of a butcher's or grocer's shop, 
respectable mothers of families were transformed into 
positive furies. 

Consequently the crowd by which the unfortunate Lan- 
dreau was dragged along was composed, in a great part, of 
persons who were really very peaceably inclined in ordinary 
times. In fact, the feminine element preponderated. It 
is more than probable that these very persons, if they had 
found the gamekeeper starving on a street corner would 
have gone without food themselves to give him the ration 
for which they had waited, cold and shivering, in the snow; 
but a few cunning words then had all the power of those 
philters of the olden time which are said to have suddenly 
destroyed the reason of those to whom they were adminis- 
tered. 

It was only necessary to call a man a traitor or a spy to 



184 ftlE RED BANi). 

bring down upon his unhappy head the blind fury of the 
mob, and the hunchback, who knew the populace well, 
had availed himself of the means successfully employed by 
demagogues of every age and clime. 

Guided by Agricola, who gamboled joyously along before 
it, the crowd finally entered the building in process of erec- 
tion for the famous Eollin College. 

The main door-way led into a large hall, which the 
architect had intended for a refectory. As yet only the 
four walls of the hall M\~re completed, but the transverse 
beams intended to support the flooring of the story above 
were already in position. 

The place consequently was well adapted to the perpe- 
tration of the intended crime, but unfortunately some of 
the necessary implements were lacking. They had no rope, 
and the beams were not within the reach of tbe would-be 
executioners. 

Taupier began to fear that his plan would not prove feas- 
ible after all, especially as there were already some dis- 
senting voices; but he had been plotting to get rid of Lan- 
dreau for a long time, and had prepared this scheme with 
too much care to admit any possibility of failure now. 

The advocates of drowning began to promulgate their 
views. 

" This isn't a good place. Let us take him away from 
here," remarked one. 

" Let us go to the Bridge Austerlitz with him," cried a 
second voice. 

" No, that is too far." 

" To the basin of La Villette then," shouted another. 

" Yes, yes, that's a good place." 

" Say, you people down there!" piped a shrill voice. 

Every head was raised. There, astride a window frame 
twenty feet above them, was the puny form of Agricola. 
The worthy heir of Citizen Bourignard had climbed a lad' 
der thab led up to the scaffolding that surrounded one of 



THE RED BAND. 185 

the towers, and thus reached one of the openings left for 
the window in the story above. 

The carpenter had left several augers and hammers 
there, as well as several pieces of ropes, so Agricola had 
only to choose. 

" Citizens, you will now see Blondin, the hero of Niag- 
ara," cried the young scoundrel, bowing low, with his 
hand upon his heart. 

Shouts of laughter greeted this sally, and, highly elated 
by his success, the young imp, with arms outstretched to 
balance himself, walked out upon one of the ponderous 
beams until he reached the middle of the hall. Then seat- 
ing himself astride it, unrolled the rope which he had coiled 
about his waist, and allowed an end to fall over each side 
of the beam. 

" Now, citizens, the performance can begin whenever 
you please," he cried. 

Quite a commotion was apparent in the crowd imme- 
diately surrounding Landreau. Some of the less ferocious 
drew back, with evident repugnance, while those who were 
more hardened began to prepare a slip knot. 

During the whole of this trying ordeal the gamekeeper 
had retained his self-possession. He was very pale, but he 
carried his head proudly erect, and he had not uttered a 
word since his fall had placed him at the mercy of the crowd. 

Besides, it was too late now to make any attempt to 
soften the hearts of these brutes, so he lifted his heart in 
prayer to God, and prepared to die. 

The preparations were nearly completed. 

Four impromptu executioners had already seized one end 
of the rope; the slip-noose had been made, and was now 
dangling about five feet from the ground. 

The victim was pushed toward this hastily improvised 
gallows, and a man stood ready to place the fatal noose 
about his neck. 

Taupier watched the frightful operation with dry eyes; 



186 



THE BED BAND. 



but several women, seized by a tardy attack of sensibility, 
suddenly rushed toward the door. 

A moment more, and the victim would be launched into 
otcrnity. 

Taupier, who had been longing for this moment with 
breathless impatience, saw, mt without uneasiness, the 
women whom fright had just driven from the room rush 
back again. 

" Here are the Mobiles! run!" they cried. 

" Quick, quick, finish the job. Don't let the rascal es- 
cape you,'" yelled the hunchback. 

But the volunteer executioners, being less interested in 
suppressing the gamekeeper, deemed it advisable to take 
time for reflection. 

The mere announcement of the presence of an armed 
force in the immediate neighborhood was enough to render 
them circumspect in their behavior, and all let go their 
hold on the fatal rope. 

Landreau's no-ck remained in the noose, but a space had 
suddenly been cleared around him, and as his hands were 
not bound, there was nothing to prevent him from freeing 
himself entirely. 

A detachment of Finisterre militia chanced to be march- 
ing down the Avenue Trudaine on their way from the 
trenches just as the crowd of women rushed out into the 
street, shouting and gesticulating, and hearing such excla- 
mations as: " They are going to hang him!" " They have 
hung him already!" "I hear his death rattle!" these 
soldiers, though extremely unsophisticated, could not doubt 
that some grave event was in progress within this unfin- 
ished building. Besides, the sergeant in command was a 
city bred man, and much more clear-sighted than his men, 
so he marched his little column straight up to the door of 
the college. 

The return of the women had created great excitement 
but the unexpected advent of the soldiers caused a regular 



THE RED BAND. 187 

stampede, many leaping from the windows into the court- 
yard, while others took refuge in various nooks and cor- 
ners of the building; and no sooner did the promising child 
of the concierge discern the soldiers, from the beam upon 
which he was perched, than he very wisely concluded that 
it was time for him to take his departure. 

At that moment the hall certainly presented a curious 
aspect. The little Breton sergeant and his men had cut 
off all retreat by way of the Avenue Trudaine, and now 
stood gazing with very natural astonishment at the fright- 
ened populace and the preparations for the execution. 
Landreau still had the rope about his neck, and seemed 
deeply agitated, for as not unfrequently happens, the man 
who had confronted death without flinching was trembling 
now at the thought of the danger to which he had been ex- 
posed. 

The hunchback was balancing himself first upon one foot 
and then upon the other, endeavoring to prepare a tissue of 
falsehoods in accordance with his usual habit in peculiarly 
trying circumstances. 

" What is the matter, my friend?" inquired the ser- 
geant, going straight up to Landreau, who did not know 
what to say in reply. 

When one has only narrowly escaped being hung for 
speaking too hastily, one is naturally averse to entering 
into an explanation in a stranger's presence, and the faith- 
ful servitor of the Saint Seniors understood perfectly that 
the affair was not ended by any means. He was saved from 
death, it is true, but not from tho necessity of revealing 
his identity under penalty cf arrest. 

How was he to extricate himself from the clutches of the 
authorities without disclosing his name and the names of 
the inmates of the cottage. 

His embarrassment did not escape the keen eye of Tau- 
pier, who deemed it advisable to lose no time in presenting 
his statement of the case. 



188 THE RED BAND. 

" Citizen," he began, stepping boldly forward, " this 
man is a deserter; he assaulted— yes, he threatened the lives 
of the brave guards who tried to arrest him, and wounded 
several persons with a bayonet he snatched from one of the 
soldiers. " 

" A deserter? Why, he is too old for military service." 

"But he is a deserter, nevertheless! He admitted it/'' 
cried two or three by-standers who were beginning to regain 
courage. 

" Perhaps he is," replied the sergeant, " still that is no 
reason why you should hang him." 

" The people have a right to punish traitors," said Tau* 
pier, dictatorially. 

" I am not talking to you," said the young officer, who 
was beginning to take offense at the hunchback's arrogant 
manners. 

"I repeat that we all owe obedience to the will of the 
people, citizen." 

But if Valnoir's coadjutor fancied that he could intimi- 
date the little sergeant, he was very much mistaken. 

" The people!" he retorted, shrugging his shoulders, 
" do you call this rabble that combines to overpower and 
kill a defenseless man the people?" 

" You are insulting worthy citizens!" cried Taupier, 
" and I hold you responsible for whatever may be the re- 
sult of this interference on your part. " 

" Very well, I know what I'm about. Now let me hear 
your side of the story," he added, turning to Landreau. 

" I was seized as I was passing quietly down the street," 
replied the old gamekeeper. " Of course I defended my- 
self as well as 1 could, but I was thrown down, and then 
dragged here. If you had not arrived with your men when 
you did, I should be a dead man now. " 

" And you are not in the army:" 

" Not now," replied Landreau, with a hesitation that 
betrayed his embarrassment. 



THE BED BAND. 189 

" Your explanation is hardly satisfactory, and I shall be 
obliged to take yon before the provost-marshal," said the 
sergeant, after a moment's silence. 

Then, turning to the by-standers, he added: 

" Any of you who desire to appear as witnesses have only 
to follow me, and as to that man there, who seems to be 
the chief cause of all this trouble, I shall take him with 
me." 

He pointed to Taupier as he spoke, and not one of the 
crowd that filled the hall dared to make the slightest protest. 

This announcement was anything but pleasing to the 
hunchback, who was not at all anxious to appear with Lan- 
dreau before the authorities, for it would be necessary to 
state his name and business, and his position as editor of 
the " Serpenteau " was not of a nature to secure him the 
good- will of the provost-marshal, upon whom this sheet 
poured the grossest vituperation daily. 

He realized, however, the impossibility of resisting a 
command that was upheld by a dozen bayonets, especially 
as he could hope for no aid from his cowardly followers. 

"I am perfectly willing to accompany you/' he said, 
more civilly; "but it is hardly worth while to trouble the 
commandant, especially as there is a military post only a 
few steps from here." 

The sergeant glanced down the avenue. 

It was snowing hard, and the tramp to the Place Ven- 
dome was no slight undertaking for men already worn out 
with cold and fatigue. 

" Where is this post?" inquired the sergeant, anxious to 
spare his men if possible. 

" On the Rue Neuve Bossuet, only a few steps from 
here. ' ' 

" Let us go there then, and at once, for it is terribly 
cold here. " 

Taupier required no urging, and Landreau, too, obeyed 
the order without making any objection, 



190 THE BED BAND. 

"I don't know which battalion is on guard to-day/' 
thought Taupier, " but it will be very strange if I don't 
find some member of the ' Society of the Moon with the 
Teeth ' there, and in that case, all will be well. " 

They reached the post just as the officer in charge 
opened the door of his office to go to breakfast, and Taupier 
gave a sigh of relief upon recognizing in the functionary 
his old friend, J. B. Frapillon. 

The prudent hunchback had the presence of mind to give 
no sign of recognition, however, and Frapillon was shrewd 
enough to take in the situation at o glance. 

" "Walk in, gentlemen," said Frapillon, with tho polite- 
ness that never deserted him, for it was one of his pet the- 
ories that violence and injustice could be made to appear 
excusable only by suavity of manner. 

The sergeant pushed his prisoner and the witnesses into 
the guard-room, and then followed them, leaving his men 
outside, however, for he knew by experience that the Fin- 
isterre militia was not popular with many of the National 
Guards. 

The room was filled with men whose ferocious and dis- 
reputable appearance fully justified the sergant's precau- 
tions. Some were chaffing one another about the stove; 
others were smoking short black pipes and playing cards. 
The whole atmosphere of the place was impregnated with 
nauseating odors, which even the strong smell of tobacco- 
smoke could not overcome, and which must have been ex- 
ceedingly disagreeable to one of J. B. Frapillon's fastidious 
tastes, so he lost no time in ushering the new arrivals into 
the apartment reserved for the officer in charge. 

It was a narrow room, furnished with a pine table and a 
few cane-seat chairs. 

Frapillon seated himself with the easy grace of a man 
accustomed to giving audiences behind a desk, settled his 
spectacles on his nose, stroked his sandy beard, and began 
|ihe examination with all the suavity of which he was capable. 



THE KED BAND. 191 

Strange to say, though the party accused and his ac- 
cusers found themselves simultaneously in the presence of 
the official to whom the settlement of the difficulty was in- 
trusted, there was no recrimination or noisy discussion. 

Landreau and Taupier both had their reasons for being 
silent, especially as the latter had full confidence in the sa- 
gacity of his accomplice, Frapillon; consequently, the ser- 
geant was able to finish his statement of the case without 
interruption. 

After this was concluded, Landreau complained of the 
violent treatment to which he had been subjected, but re- 
fused to disclose either his profession or his place of resi- 
dence. 

This certainly was one of the worst possible systems of 
defense, but he could think of no other, as his relations 
with the military authorities were unfortunately of a very 
unsatisfactory nature just at that time. 

After the capture of his lieutenant during the nocturnal 
attack, the old servant obtained permission to return to 
Paris: but his leave had expired, and a request for its re- 
newal had been refused. Hence, it followed that Landreau, 
an excellent soldier, but above all a devoted adherent of 
the Saint Senier family, found himself in a very unpleas- 
ant position, as, daring the six weeks that he had been at 
the cottage serving the ladies, his name and a description 
of his personal appearance had appeared on the list of de- 
serters transmitted to the commandant of the place. 

The gamekeeper consequently reasoned that an arrest in 
the street could not be attended with as much danger as 
would result from a visit to the cottage, on the part of the 
gendarmes; besides, he counted considerably upon the dis- 
order that was everywhere rampant, and said to himself 
that they would not detain him in person indefinitely. 

The evidence of the witnesses corresponded in every par- 
ticular. 

Taupier, who gave his testimony first, furnished the 



192 THE RED BAND. 

key-note for the others, and all united in declaring that the 
good people, indignant at the deserter's conduct, merely 
wished to arrest him. 

If he had been maltreated, it was only because he had 
tried to defend himself, and the pretended attempt at 
hanging was an innocent farce, merely intended to frighten 
hin^ 

The case having been heard, the officer in charge re- 
flected a moment, and then rendered his decision with an 
urbanity of language that softened the severity of the sen- 
tence. 

" I greatly regret that you have not seen fit to answer 
my questions," he said to Landreau; " but that beiug the 
case, I am under the painful necessity of sending you to 
jirison. You will be detained there until your identity has 
been established, but I hope that you will be at liberty in a 
few days. I can not thank you enough," he added, turn- 
ing to the witnesses with a fraternal smile, " for the zeal 
that you have displayed in this case. The people are pow- 
erful, but they are also just, and I am satisfied that your 
intentions were excellent. 

" You, my friend, are now at liberty to retire." 

This last remark Mas addressed to the sergeant, and 
though the young Breton did not share the general opinion 
in regard to the prisoner's guilt, he had no desire to be 
mixed up in any difficulty with the local authorities, so he 
promptly availed himself of the permission. 

The hunchback at first resolved to remain, but his con- 
federate ,gave him such a meaning look over tho tops of his 
spectacles, that he abandoned the idea, and left the room 
wi#h the others, taking care, however, to be tho last in tho 
procession. 

His desire to address a few words to Frapillon was so evi- 
dent to that gentleman that he determined, if possible, to 
appoint an interview. 

"While the soldiers were forming into line to return to 



THE RED BAND. 193 

their barracks, Frapillon, who had. stepped outside ostensi- 
bly to see them off, began to stamp about in the snow like 
a man who is trying to warm his feet. 

" This is bad weather for tramping about the streets, 
gentlemen," he remarked, pulling the hood of his overcoat 
up over his head. " I should like to get my blood to cir- 
culating a little more freely before I start, for it is terribly 
cold in my office." 

" You are going out, then, captain?" inquired Taupier, 
carelessly. " Yes; I was just going to breakfast when 
you came in; and as I sha'n't be off duty until evening I 
shall have to get a bite at the nearest restaurant.'" 

" With your permission I'll accompany you there, citi- 
zen/' said the hunchback. 

" And so will we!" exclaimed the other witnesses, who 
perhaps cherished a hope of being treated to a glass or two 
at the wine-shop on the next corner. 

" Certainly, gentlemen, with pleasure," replied Frapil- 
lon, suavely, though he was by no means pleased at this 
addition to the company. 

But on reaching the Avenue Trudaine, and just as 
Taupier was beginning to despair of securing the desired 
opportunity, the cunning captain paused suddenly and said: 

' ' Excuse me, gentlemen, but I entirely forgot to give an 
important order to my lieutenant, and I must return to my 
office. I trust, however, that I shall soon have the pleasure 
of meeting you all again." 

With this complimentary remark, J. B. Frapillon turned 
upon his heel, and as he passed the hunchback, who had 
loitered a little behind the others, he whispered: 

" This evening, at nine o'clock, at the Eat-Mort." 



194 THE BED BA3TD. 



CHAPTEE IX. 

The Cafe Eat-Mort is extremely popular with the artists 
and writers who reside in the essentially literary quarter 
surrounding the Place Pigalle. 

Its name has even become a familiar word in the central 
parts of the city, and more than one habitue of the gay 
terraces of the Boulevard Montmartre has not disdained to 
take a seat at the modest tables that line the facade of this 
already famous establishment. 

In winter, the motley crowd that throng the cafe congre- 
gate in two large halls on the lower floor, and each different 
set takes possession of its favorite corner. There is the 
artists' corner, likewise the journalistic bench, and also the 
ladies' aicove, for the fair sex is abundantly represented at 
the Eat-Mort. 

During the siege, however, the clrenfele underwent an 
entire change, and the establishment was so crowded with 
soldiers that a stranger, on entering it, would have sup- 
posed himself in a garrison town a hundred leagues from 
the Place Pigalle. 

The majority of these warriors belonged to the National 
Guard, but the close proximity of the barracks on the outer 
boulevard insured the jiatronage of many of the provincial 
militia. 

By a sort of mutual consent the military patrons of the 
establishment occupied the front room, where thev held 
high carnival, while the old habit uis. representing the civil 
element of society, gathered in the back room to talk over 
the events of the day, while from the tall desk, where she 
sat enthroned, the pretty sovereign of this little empire be- 
stowed her smiles impartially upon both classes of her sub- 
jects, and upon both sexes. 



TUK If I'll) HANI). 195 

On the evening following the snowy day that hiid so 
nearly jmn'ril poor Landreau's List, the liat-Mort was even 
lnoro densely crowded than usual. 

Mirth and hilarity reigned supremo in the entrance hall, 
where the little ]5reton sergeant was treating half a dozen 
follows from hoscof and Morlaix. 

At the further end of the next room, in which threo of 
tho militia were consoling themselves for their last drearv 
vigil on tho ramparts by an interminable game of billiards. 
Taupier and hYapillon wero sitting vis-a-vix, while upon 
tho small marble table between them rose an imposing pile 
of checks which, in accordance with the custom that pro- 
vails in these places of entertainment, indicated the number 
of schooners drank. The assistant-editor and. the business 
manager of the " Serpeuteau " both professed a great fond- 
ness for beer, ehielly because they considered it an eminent- 
ly democratic beverage; bosides, in order that they might 
be. able to talk togethor here, without attracting attention, 
they had deemed it advisable to assume the character of 
hard drinkers. 

Neither of the two men were frequenters of the hat- 
Mort, Taupier infinitely ju'cferring that famous temple of 
Radicalism, the Cafe do Madrid; ami ,1. 15. Frapillon, 
broker and banker, feeling that his professional dignity 
forbade any jxifcronago of second-class restaurants. 

The neighboring tables were occupied — the one on the 
left by two long-haired men who were engaged in a game 
of ooaito — a six-sous package of tobacco constituting tho 
stakes; the one on I lie right by three women, whoso tongues 
rattled on incessantly whilo they regaled themselves with 
some branched cherries; so the two friends could discuss 
their plans for tho future with little danger of interrup- 
tion. 

•• So our man is safely disposed of," remarked Taupior, 
with a' satisfied air. 

" Yes, and for a good long time. 1 have friends in the 



196 THE RED BAND. 

jail, and I recommended him to them in a pretty effectual 
manner." 

" Still, I would much rather know he was hanging by 
the neck in the college building. It was such an easy and 
effectual way to get rid of him." 

" Oh! you are always advocating violent measures. It 
is a mistake, my friend, a very great mistake. One can 
get rid of people without killing them, and if you adopt my 
theory you run no risk of the Court of Assizes." 

" There has been none since the siege," said the hunch- 
back, " and we shall suppress that relic of barbarism alto- 
gether as soon as the ' Moon with the Teeth ' comes into 
power.' 5 

" Still, in the meantime, I think we had better not run 
any unnecessary risk. Gentle measures are the most potent 
after all." 

" That talk is all very fine, but here two months have 
passed since we began working against these people, and 
our task is nowhere near completed yet. " 

" Taupier, my son, you are unfair. Let us recapitulate 
a little. When you came to see me near the end of Sep- 
tember Valnoir & Co. had everything to fear. Their secret 
was known to five or six persons. To-day Master Pilevert 
is a member of our band, and he will unite with us, if 
necessary, against the common enemy. " 

" Yes/' growled Taupier, " and some fine day when he 
has drunk a little more than usual, he will let the cat out 
of the bag. " 

" Drank more than usual! That would be an impossi- 
bility, for he does nothing else night and day," replied 
Frapillon, smiling. 

" Now, speaking c£ his pupil, as he calls the deaf and 
dumb gypsy — she was dangerous, and I confess that I saw 
no way of getting rid of her for awhile. But who gave 
Mouchabeuf instructions to dispatch her to the wilds of 
Germany, whence she will never return, instead of rashly 



THE KED BAXD. 197 

throwing her in the canal where her body would surely 
have been found, sooner or later.'' 

*"' I advise yon not to boast of that The fool sent her 
to Saint Germain to join Saint Senier, who will drop down 
upon us some day when we least expect it." 

"' He died in the hospital, my dear fellow. Monchabeui 
heard so at Rueil, through his friend, the Prussian: and as 
for the fortune-teller, she has had plenty of time to return 
if she was going to, or if she hadn't been on the road to 
Berlin for six weeks. " 

i: There is nothing to prove that such is the case, and I 
am by no means easy in mind. The gamekeeper troubled 
us," continued Frapillon, without troubling himself about 
the hunchback's misgivings; " and now he is safe in prison 
for a long time. " 

" The credit of that belongs to me/' said Taupier, 
quickly. '* If I had not bribed Bourignard and his imp 
of a son we should never have caught the old fox." 

" The two women remain," interrupted the broker. 

" Yes, and until we have them in our power we are no 
better off than we were at first. " 

■ " You are right, but we shall soon have them in our 
power." 

" What will you do with them when you get them. Yoa 
can not send them to Prussia, nor have them taken to 
prison by your men. " 

" Xo," replied Frapillon, coollv: " but—" 

'•But what:"' 

" I have a plan — " 

"Apian!" repeated Taupier, shrugging his shoulders. 
*" Lpon my word! you amase me immensely with all your 
fine talk about gentle measures and your plans. We all 
know what a plan is worth," added the hunchback, who 
had so often criticised the management of the city's defense. 

" Mine is infallible, as you will admit in less than a 
wt-t'k," replied J. B. Frapillon.. imperturbably. 



198 THE KED BAXD. 

"Bah! you won't succeed in doing with two women 
who live secluded from the world what you did with a 
gypsy and a deserter." 

" No, I shall do something entirely different, but the 
result will be the same. 

" We'll see!" growled Taupier. 

" Waiter, bring us two schooners!" he cried, after a mo- 
ment, for he seemed to be afflicted with unquenchable thirst. 

The quantity of beer that he had drunk and his arrogant 
manners were beginning to attract the attention of his 
neighbors. 

The men on his left gazed in open-mouthed astonishment 
at a man who was wealthy enough to repeat his order every 
quarter of an hour, and the ladies on his right began to 
cast furtive glances at him. 

One of them, a majestic beauty of about forty years, who 
was consoling herself for the loss of her former admirers 
by interesting herself in politics, fancied she detected a 
j)olitical pamphleteer in the distorted person of Taupier; 
and this idea having once entered her romantic brain she 
resolved to attract his attention at all hazards, and so began 
to talk for his special benefit. 

" Yes, I tell you, my clears, that very strange things are 
going on in the neighborhood. The air is full of con- 
spiracy, and I feel it my duty as a citizen to denounce the 
traitors," she remarked, impressively. 

" I am not a citizen. I am from Picardy," retorted one 
of her companions, who answered to the mythological name 
of Aglae, though she certainly had nothing in common 
with the most beautiful of the three graces. 

" And I have no desire to act the part of a spy," de- 
clared the antiquated beauty who completed the trio. 

" You don't know what you are talking about, Phemia," 
said the first speaker. " If you had allowed me to finish 
my story you would have found out that I am no spy. I 
have eyes, that is all." 



THE RED 3JAXD. 199 

' ; What have you seen, Madame Irma?" asked Aglae. 

" Well, you know I live on the Rue de Laval, and as my 
windows overlook ' the street, I can see what is going on 
opposite. " 

*"' There is nothing but a wall opposite the house where 
you live,'' sneered the skeptical Phemia. 

" Yes, but behind the wall there is a garden that ex- 
tends to the Eue de ZSavarin, and in the middle of this 
garden is a cottage that is occupied by two women — one 
old, the other young — who came from nobody knows where, 
who never go out, who receive no company, and who have 
a gray-headed man to wait upon them, and go out and get 
then - provisions for them. Xow what do you think of 
that:" 

'" I don't see anything very wonderful about that. It is 
no crime to have a servant, and to like to stay in one's own 
home. " 

" Especially such weather as this," remarked Aglae. 
" If I had wood enough to keep me warm you wouldn't 
often see me in the street. 

'"' That may be, but you at least are known in the neigh- 
borhood," replied Irma, majestically. 

'"' Known but too -well," remarked Phemia, sotto voce. 

" "While no one knows the name of these princesses in 
disguise, nor what they are doing, nor when they took pos- 
session of their present quarters. The house belongs to an 
aristocrat, a nobleman who resides in the country, and who 
never sets foot in it, for he has his taxes paid by his banker. 
Every evening, my dears, at the same hour — about eight 
o'clock — sometimes a little later — I see — " 

•' What?" exclaimed the other ladies, breathlessly. 

; ' A light in the second story. It is always extinguished 
before midnight, and this light is green." 

" Green!" repeated Aglae, with a bewildered air. 

''' Why, it must be a signal,"' said Phemia, apparently 
better versed in the history of sieges. 



200 THE RED BAND. 

" Ah, ha!" said Irma, triumphantly. " Don't you think 
now that it is my duty to denounce these spies to the com- 
missioner of police?" 

" I'm inclined to think so, indeed," declared Phemia, 
severely. 

It is needless to say that Frapillon and Taupier had been 
listening to this conversation with the closest attention, and 
in order that they might be able to do this, without being 
guilty of any glaring breach of good manners, Frapillon had 
taken a newspaper from his pocket and apparently devoted 
himself to its perusal, while Taupier lighted a pipe. 

Her companion's story seemed to have furnished the art- 
less Aglae with food for reflection, for she remained silent 
and thoughtful for several minutes; then: 

" Doesn't the young lady dress in mourning?" she asked. 

" Yes, the young lady, and the old lady, too." 

" She's very pretty, too, isn't she?" 

" She's a washed-out blonde, with a complexion like 
papier-mache, and a wasp-like waist," replied Irma, who 
was a buxom brunette with a high color. 

" She's the very lady I have in mind then." 

" You can't possibly know her, for she never goes out, I 
tell you." 

" She went out this evening, and I'm sure it was she, for 
I was passing your house when I saw her closing the little 
gate in the wall opposite you." 

" Impossible. Where was she going?" 

" I'll tell you," said Aglae, who was not sorry to have a 
chance to hold forth in her turn. 

" She was so pretty that I turned to get another look at 
her, and as I did, she stepped up to me and said, in the 
sweetest voice: ' Madame, will you be kind enough to show 
me a shop where I can purchase some bread?' As it hap- 
pened, I was just starting out to get my dinner, so I told 
her to come with me, and we walked up the Eue de Laval 
together. I did my best to make her talk as we went 



THE KED BAND. 201 

along, but she answered me only in. monosyllables, and 
looked as if she might burst out crying at any moment. 
We reached the baker's on the corner of the Rue Condor- 
cet just as he was going to close his shop, but we stepped 
inside, and she asked for some bread, but in such a funny 
way that it was very evident she had never been in the 
habit of going to market. ' Your card, madame, if you 
please/ said the baker. But she didn't even seem to know 
what that was. ' Do you belong in this neighborhood?' 
asked the man. Whereupon my lady stammered out three 
or four words, and turned even paler than before. I was 
about to interfere, when all of a sudden she ran out of the 
store and rushed up the Eue des Martyrs as fast as she 
could go." 

" What did I tell you?" exclaimed Mme. Irma, rejoiced 
to have her suspicions confirmed. 

" It is plain enough that they are suspicious characters 
— women who are so afraid of being known that they won't 
apply for a provision order. " 

" And who have their food bought for them by a serv- 
ant-man. I'll bet that it's Prussian rations they're eat- 
ing/' chimed in Phemia. 

"I don't believe a word of it," retorted Aglae. "I 
don't know anything about the old lady, but the young one 
is just as sweet as she can be, and I'm sure she couldn't be 
induced to injure any one. " 

Since the conversation of their neighbors had taken this 
interesting turn, the two gentlemen had not lost a word of 
it. Taupier had been puffing away at his pipe with so 
much ardor that he was now enveloped in a cloud after the 
manner of the gods of Olympus; while Frapillon, turning 
half-way around in his arm-chair, had made a screen of his 
newspaper in such a way as to hide his face from the 
speakers. 

Thanks to this stratagem, the allies could make signs to 
each other, and even exchange a few words with impunity. 



202 



THE BED BAND. 



" Hunger drives wolves out of the woods," muttered 
Taupier. " No servant, no provisions." 

" What do you think of my plan now?" inquired Fra- 
pillon, adjusting his spectacles. 

The hunchback was about to reply when a terrible up- 
roar burst forth in the adjoining room, the sound of bois- 
terous, but husky voices, accompanied with the sharp crash 
of broken glass. 

" I want another glass of brandy, I tell you. Hang the 
expense! Fll pay for it, I tell you. Do you think I've no 
money?" 

" Put him out/ ' yelled the crowd composed principally of 
militia men and led by the little sergeant. "It was evi- 
dent that some one who had imbibed a little too much had 
overturned a table, and that a quarrel was imminent. 

"Put me out! Just come and try it, if you dare, you 
white-livered cowards! You'll find it a harder job than 
you think to master the rampart of Avallon!" 

"It is that brute Pilevert. "We must get out of here 
without loss of time, if we don't want him to compromise 
us," whispered Taupier. 

" No," replied Frapillon in the same low tone. " On the 
contrary, we must remain to prevent any further foolish- 
ness on his part;" and he hastened into the adjoining room, 
closely followed by the hunchback. 

A crowd of curious spectators had gathered around the 
overturned table, and in the middle of it the acrobat, red 
as a peony, and fairly foaming with rage, was standing in 
an attitude which he was evidently endeavoring to render 
classical, but intoxication was apparent in his every move- 
ment, and greatly impaired the grace of his posture. 

It was only too evident that his footing was not firm; 
that the statue was tottering upon its base. 

The spectators quickly perceived this fact, and indulged 
in some jesting remarks that infuriated the already angry 
man to the highest pitch. 



THE UKD 1JAKD. 203 

" Come on, come on, I say, you make-believe soldier, 
and let me demolish you," he yelled, squaring himself like 
a boxing master. 

The little Breton sergeant who had constituted himself 
the champion of the insulted parties, did not appear in the 
least terrified by his opponent's threats, but walking 
straight up to him: 

" Will you let us alone or not; yes or no?" he asked, in 
the calmest possible voice. 

A sullen growl was the only response of the acrobat, who 
hastily sprung forward to seize his despised enemy, but his 
brawny fist encountered nothing but vacancy. 

The Breton had suddenly stooped, and his head con- 
verted into a battering-ram, struck the unfortunate Pilevert 
in the pit of the stomach, causing him to totter for a sec- 
ond, and then fall flat upon his back in the midst of the 
jeering spectators. 

Lively applause greeted this act of prowess, and the tide 
of public sentiment began to turn in favor of the Breton. 

"Bravo, moMot !" cried several members of the Na- 
tional Guard. 

" Now let's put the scoundrel out!" 

" Send him to the station-house!" 

These and similar cries were heard on every side, and it 
seemed more than likely that the unfortunate acrobat would 
be seized by the head and heels and thrown into the gutter 
without any ceremony. 

But he found protectors when he least expected it. While 
he was vainly endeavoring to regain his footing, J. B. Fra- 
pillon, whose wits never deserted him, and who had already 
devised a way of extricating him from this unpleasant posi- 
tion, stooped and assisted the prostrate Hercules to his feet. 
When he had succeeded in extricating Pilevert from the 
heap of chairs and benches into which he had fallen, he 
prevented any exclamation of surprise by whispering in his 
ear these significant words: 



204: THE RED BAND. 

" Not a word about us, if you want your pay." 

Then he added aloud: 

" The poor man is ill, and needs medical attention.-" 

"You mean he's drunk," exclaimed a by-stander who 
had paused in his game of cards to watch the row. 

" That is no unpardonable sin. A citizen may surely be 
forgiven for taking a glass too much in times like these," 
interposed Taupier. 

" That's a fact!" 

" And we did very wrong to allow him to be bullied by 
this Breton. " 

" We ought to avenge the insult inflicted upon him." 

These exclamations resounded simultaneously from the 
group of billiard-players. 

Another fight would not suit the plans of J. B. Frapillon, 
who hastened to dispel the rising storm. 

" Gentlemen," he interposed with his usual urbanity, " I 
think you would make a great mistake, for the provincials 
are in force to-night; besides, such a disturbance would be 
extremely distasteful to the pretty mistress of the establish- 
ment, so with your permission I will escort this worthy 
man to his home. Come, my brave fellow," he added, in a 
paternal toue, turning to Pilevert, "make an effort and 
come with me. My friend and I will see you safely home. ' ' 

The only response was a sullen growl that might pass for 
a consent, and Frapillon paid the bill, and even the charge 
for the glassware and crockery demolished. 

This done, he offered an arm to Pilevert, and half led, 
half dragged him to the door; but scarcely had the three 
reached the middle of the Puie Frochot, when Frapillon 
dropped the acrobat's arm, and said to him sternly: 

" I have told you before, Pilevert, that I would allow 
you to drink at home, but that I positively forbade you to 
appear in a state of intoxication in public places, where 
you might gravely compromise the society to which you 
have the honor to belong. I will overlook the offense this 



THE RED 1SAXD. 205 

>nce, but I warn you that the very next time you are 
juilty of such an offense, you will have to settle with me." 

" Yes, yes, I understand,-" murmured Pilevert, who re- 
garded the suave broker with wholesome awe. 

;i Let me see, where do you live:" asked Frapillon, 
n'usquely. 

" Quite near here, at Moutmartre," said Pilevert, whose 
articulation was becoming more and more indistinct. 

" Then help me drag him home, Taupier. If we leave 
rim here, he will be arrested, and perhaps get us into 
trouble." 

As they were leaving the Rue Frochot, a woman passed 
them very hurriedly, and in the bright light that streamed 
from the windows of the restaurant her face and form at- 
tracted the attention of Frapillon, who paused abruptly. 

" Did you recognize her?" he asked, turning hastily to 
Taupier. 

The latter was too much engaged in supporting the tot- 
tering steps of Pilevert to pay much attention to passers-by, 
for, now that Frapillon had let go his hold on the acrobat's 
arm, the whole weight of the intoxicated man fell upon the 
frail body of the hunchback, and threatened to send him 
reeling into the gutter at any moment. 

" Recognized whom?" growled Taupier, who was evi- 
dently in the worst of humor. " You had better help me, 
instead of stopping to stare at people that pass." 

" Hush, you simpleton!" replied the broker. " Luck is 
serving us much better than you deserve. The person who 
just passed us is the young lady that lives in the cottage." 

" Impossible!" 

' ; I am positive of it. Let us wait a moment and see 
what she is going to da" 

The young lady, after passing the lighted corner on which 
the Eat-Mort stood, turned hurriedly into the now deserted 
Place Pigalle. 

The snow was still falling, and the fountain that adorned 



206 THE RED BAND. 

the center of the broad esplanade was a mass of icicles, so 
with the leafless trees and the closed shops, the scene was 
certainly cheerless in the extreme. 

It could have been stern necessity alone that impelled a 
young girl to venture out alone in such weather, and in 
this lonely neighborhood, and Frapillon was not mistaken 
— Frapillon, who at that moment must have experienced 
much the sensations of a spider who sees a poor fly hover- 
ing about the web in which he will eventually become en- 
tangled. 

Not that the broker took the troubles of his friends Val- 
noir and Taupier so much to heart, but through discovering 
secrets for others he had finally become personally interest- 
ed in the matter, and was now working hard to further the 
execution of a little plan of his own. 

His great desire now, consequently, was to get rid of his 
present companions. 

"Where can she be going?" J. B. Frapillon said to 
himself, ' ' and how am I to follow her without dragging 
these two idiots along at my heels?" 

The first question seemed a difficult one to answer, for 
the girl, after crossing the square, continued her walk past 
the houses on the eastern side of the rond-poini, pausing at 
every door and looking up, then resuming her walk as if 
she had not found what she was looking for. 

After hesitating and retracing her steps several times, 
she finally approached the door-way of a large house occu- 
pied by a colony of artists on the corner of the square. 

Frapillon himself thought at first that she was going to 
ring, but he saw her lean forward to read the names on the 
brass plate above the bell, and then straighten herself up 
with a dispairing gesture and walk rapidly away. 

A thought suddenly occurred to him. 

" I think I understand," he muttered, trembling with 
joy, " and now I shall be stupid, indeed, if I can not ac- 
complish my aim. " 



the kei> i:a;\D. 207 

Seizing the hunchback by the arm, he said curtly: 

" Take this man home, as you know where he lives. I 
am going to follow the princess. ' ' 

This arrangement did not suit Taupier for many reasons. 
In the first place, he had not implicit confidence in his ac- 
complice, and he preferred to watch him on all momentous 
occasions; moreover, he found the guidance of Pilevert too 
hard a job for him, especially as that worthy clung to him 
with the energy of a drowning man. But Frapillon did not 
stop to listen either to his friend's protests or threats, but 
hastened on, leaving him to get out of the scrape as best 
he could. 

Taupier, however, being enraged at this base desertion, 
made one desperate attempt to free himself by tripping his 
companion up. This maneuver proved successful, at least 
in part, for the colossus fell like a ponderous oak-tree up- 
rooted by the tempest, but unfortunately the hunchback 
had not calculated all the effects of this skillfully managed 
fall. 

Pilevert had not relaxed his hold in falling, so he 
dragged his companion down with him, landing directly on 
top of him. 

"Help! help!" cried Taupier, who was nearly crushed 
by the ponderous form that weighed liim down; but Pile- 
vert, in falling in the snow, lost the little consciousness lefb 
him, and all Taupier 's efforts to move him proved unavail- 
ing. 

Frapillon, delighted at the ridiculous accident that had 
just freed him from Taupier, would certainly have indulged 
in a hearty laugh if he had not been so afraid of losing sight 
of the young lady who was now hastily recrossing the 
square. 

In another moment he found himself face to face with 
her, and while he was endeavoring to decide upon the best 
way of opening a conversation with her, she suddenly put 
an end to his embarrassment with these words: 



208 THE KED BAND. 

" A physician, sir. Will you please direct me to the 
house of a physician?" 
" I guessed correctly," thought Frapillon. 
For the broker, seeing the young girl run from door to 
door, had guessed the errand upon which she was thus 
rushing about, in the middle of the night. His first im- 
pulse had been to conduct Eenee to the house of a phy- 
sician of his acquaintance, a person devoted to the cause 
which the " Serpenteau " had espoused, but on reflection 
he abandoned this idea, being of the opinion that it was 
always better to have no confidant if it could be avoided. 

Besides, he had special reasons for desiring to act alone 
that evening, and when he found himself face to face with 
Eenee de Saint Senier he felt that the battle was already 
won. 

" Has any accident befallen you, madame, that you are 
so anxious to secure a physician's services?" he asked, in 
his blandest tones. 

" Not me, sir, but a person who — who is a very dear re- 
lation of mine, and I implore you to tell me — " 

" I can do better than that, madame. I can accompany 
you to the home of the patient. " 
"What! you are— " 

" A physician, yes, madame; and entirely at your serv- 
ice." 

Eenee lifted her eyes gratefully to Heaven as if to thank 
God for the assistance He had rendered her. 

" Oh, thank you, thank you, sir!" she said, gratefully. 
"lam only doing my duty," said Frapillon, modestly, 
" and I am very glad that chance thus placed me in your 
path." 

" Then como at once, I entreat you. The danger is 
great, I fear," replied the girl, turning to retrace her 
steps. 

"Take my arm, madame," said the pretended doctor, 
resolved not to lose sight of his new acquaintance. 



THE RED BAND. 209 

Reiieo responded with a gesture of refusal, but Frapillon 
would not acknowledge himself defeated. 

" You can get on much more rapidly with my assistance, 
I assure you," he insisted, again offering his arm with all 
the grace of which he was capable. 

This time the girl accepted the courtesy. 

It was beginning to thaw now, and the descent of the 
inclined plane formed by this large square proved no easy 
matter. 

" I have her now," exulted the broker, as he felt his 
companion's hand involuntarily tighten its hold upon his 
arm, as she occasionally slipped a little on the half-melted 
snow. 

So leaning unwittingly upon the most dangerous of all 
her enemies, the poor child hastened on. 

" Do you not think, madame, that it would be advisable 
to send for your family physician while I am doing what I 
can to relieve the patient?" her companion asked, gently. 

" We have none. We are strangers in the city," replied 
the girl, not without embarrassment. 

This was exactly what Frapillon wished to learn, for he 
did not want to run any risk of an encounter with a gen- 
uine doctor. 

" Oh, in that case, I will assume charge of the patient 
with pleasure," he replied. " Before I felt some fear lest 
I might be interfering with a brother physician's prac- 
tice." 

Eenee started as if the remark had suddenly excited 
some misgivings in her mind, and this was undoubtedly 
the case, for she said in a troubled voice : 

" You need have no fears on that score, sir; but it is my 
duty to tell you that we have no money, and — " 

" That is a good thing to know," thought Frapillon. 

" And we shall not be able to pay you just now, but by 
and by, whatever price you may set upon your services, we 
shall be glad to compensate you." 



210 THE BED BAKU. 

" Allow me to reassure you upon this point, my dear 
young lady," replied her escort, with a smile. "I prac- 
tice medicine principally for humanity's sake, as I am rich 
enough to exact no fees from my patients, and even to 
assist them, if necessary," he added. 

" I thank you, sir, but we have need of your medical 
skill only," said the young lady, whose pride had evidently 
been aroused. 

" I had no intention of wounding you, T assure you," 
answered Frapillon, soothingly, for he perceived that he 
had made a mistake. " Have we much further to go?" 
he added, with an air of tender interest. "Walking 
through this half-melted snow is very fatiguing, and I 
fear—" 

" Only to the end of the next street on the left," replied 
the girl, whose agitation seemed to increase in proportion 
as she approached the cottage. 

Just then chance brought them face to face with a party 
of women who were evidently on their way home from the 
Eat-Mort. Frapillon felt sure that they were the garrulous 
females who had occupied the next table to his at the cafe, 
but he was in too much of a hurry to reach his destination 
to pay much attention to the meeting. 

Unfortunately Mme. Irma and her friend Aglae had ex- 
cellent eyesight, and they both recognized the young lady. 

" Well, well, there is that gad-about again," remarked 
the former. 

" And the gentleman with her is the one we saw in the 
cafe just now," said Aglae. 

" He's escorting her to the baker's, perhaps," laughed 
Phemia. 

" Let's see," responded Irma. 

And turning, the three women began to follow them. 

Frapillon was not to be daunted, however. Feigning the 
most complete ignorance in regard to the place to which 
his companion was conducting him, he yielded himself up 



THE RED BAND. 211 

entirely to her guidance, and when she at last paused in 
front of the little gate in the wall he manifested great 
astonishment. 

''Will you be kind enough to follow me,' ' said Rente, 
after pressing a spring that made the gate turn upon its 
hinges. 

Frapillon entered, concealing his delight with very toler- 
able success, and the gate closed noiselessly behind him. 

The pretended physician's heart throbbed violently as he 
passed through the door-way leading into this cottage whose 
inmates had been under his close surveillance for more than 
two months. In fact, he expressed very much the sensa- 
tions of a general who, by some lucky chance has been sud- 
denly admitted within the walls of a long-besieged city. 

At first his new role of physician had embarrassed him a 
little, but nature had endowed him with so much audacity 
and assurance that he was capable of playing almost any 
part admirably, so quite entering into the spirit of the im- 
personation, he asked: 

" When did this illness attack the patient?" 

" Just now, sir. It came on very suddenly. I was 
alone in the house with her, and being much frightened, of 
course I rushed out at once in pursuit of medical aid. " 

The path shaded with lindens was quickly traversed, and 
guided by the young girl Frapillon entered the mysterious 
cottage. The open doors testified to the haste with which 
Renee had left the house, and by a light that was burning 
at the end of the hall, one could see the interior of the 
room in which Regina had been received on the evening of 
her abduction. 

Mme. de Muire was lying in an arm-chair, pale and mo- 
tionless, with her head thrown back and her eyes closed, 
and looking so much like a dead person that for a moment 
the pretended physician was deceived. 

But the girl threw herself upon her knees beside her 
aunt, and seized her hands with an impetuosity that aroused 



212 THE BED BAND. 

Mme. de Muire from her stupor, and made her utter a long 
sigh. 

" Heaven be praised! she is regaining consciousness," 
murmured Renee. 

J. B. Frapillon saw this only too plainly, and though 
only a moment before he had been secretly rejoicing at a 
denouement that would greatly facilitate his plans, he 
knew how to bear disappointment, and forthwith proceeded 
to feel the patient's pulse. 

" There is great weakness accompanied by great mental 
prostration," he murmured, with a very excellent imitation 
of a physician's manner. 

The sound of a strange voice aroused Mme. de Muire 
from her long fainting fit, and opening her eyes she gazed 
in astonishment at the strange face that was bending over 
her. 

" You feel better now, do you not, my dear madame?" 
inquired Frapillon, in the gentle tones he knew so well 
how to assume. 

" This gentleman is a physician, aunt, " interposed Renee. 

" Thank you, my dear child," Mme. de Muire managed 
to falter, though not without great difficulty. " I feel bet- 
ter now, and I shall soon be quite myself again I hope. " 

" Pray do not fatigue yourself, madame," said the pre- 
tended physician; "the slightest effort might prove very 
injurious to you, and your niece here will tell me all about 
your attack." 

"I Avas sitting here beside my aunt," began Renee, 
" when I saw her suddenly turn pale, and fall back uncon- 
scious in her arm-chair. I sprung up and ran to her, only 
to find her hands icy cold and her eyes set. I spoke to her, 
but she did not answer me; and becoming frightened — " 

" You had rushed out in search of a physician, when 
chance, or I should rather say Providence, placed me in 
your path," the pretended physician concluded for her. 

" Yes, and I again thank you for your kindness in com- 



THE RED BAND. 21o 

ing so promptly, but I entreat you, if possible, to relieve 
my anxiety, and tell me — " 

" What I think of madame's condition?" interrupted J. 
B. Frapillon. ' ' Ah, well, I find it very encouraging. The 
ittack seems to have been only a fainting fit, and I have 
3very reason to hope that with rest and careful attention 
we shall soon have the patient all right again. But before 
I prescribe any remedies I should like to know the circum- 
stances under which this attack occurred." 

Eenee glanced at the speaker with evident uneasiness. 

" I — I really do not know what could have caused it," 
she stammered at last. 

"She had experienced no keen emotion or deep disap- 
pointment:" 

" No," replied the girl, though not without considerable 
hesitation. 

" I ask this question, mademoiselle," continued Frapil- 
lon, " because the mental condition usually has a great 
deal to do with crises of this kind; but, in this case, we 
must probably look elsewhere for the cause, so I must 
again beg you to pardon me if I ask — " 

" What, sir?" asked Eenee, seeing the pretended doctor 
pause. 

"If I ask you what your dear invalid's physical condi- 
tion has been of late. If she has been subjected to — to 
privations of any kind, for instance?" 

Mile, de Saint Senier turned as red as a cherry, and her 
agitation increased very perceptibly when she perceived 
that Mme. de Muire had just been seized with a convulsive 
trembling. 

" Good heavens! mademoiselle," continued the pre- 
tended physician. ' ' I entreat you to believe that I have 
not the slightest intention of wounding you, or even of 
meddling with matters that do not concern me, but this is 
a case in which it is absolutely necessary for me to be con- 
versant with all the facts, and — " 



214 THE BED BAND. 

"My aunt has eaten nothing since yesterday," said 
Benee, with the brusqueness one often displays in making 
a painful confession. 

" That explains her weak condition; and I now under- 
stand the treatment we shall be obliged to pursue. " 

A long pause followed, for having thus been made master 
of the situation, Frapillon wished to weigh his advantages 
in order to make the best possible use of them. 

Eenee's eyes drooped, and Mme. de Muire had closed 
hers as if she wished to have no knowledge of what was 
going on around her. 

The silence became embarrassing. 

It was finally broken by Frapillon, however, he having 
concluded that the time to strike a decisive blow had 
come. 

" Listen to me, my dear child," he said, without appear- 
ing to notice the slight frown of the proud descendant of 
the Saint Seniers upon hearing herself thus addressed. 
" I was speaking to you just now of the exalted calling of 
the physician; mine, I hope, is even higher and nobler, for 
I have sufficient experience and sympathy for the sorrows 
of others to sometimes be able to heal afflicted souls as 
well. Confide in me, and do not hesitate to tell me the 
truth. Do you suppose that I can not guess it?" he added, 
with a friendly earnestness that would have done honor to 
the most talented actor. '" We are living, alas! in pecu- 
liarly trying times, and before doctoring my patients I be- 
gin by assisting them, and by shielding them as much as 
possible from the hardships of this frightful siege." 

These words were uttered with so much apparent feeling 
that they dispelled the last remnant of distrust that lin- 
gered in Eenee's heart. 

" I thank you, sir," she said, gratefully, offering him 
her hand. " I have confidence in you, and I will tell you 

all." 

In spite of his wonderful self-control J. B. Frapillon had 



THE RED BAND. )il5 

no little' difficulty in concealing his delight on hearing 
Eenee thus offer him her confidence. 

" Speak, mademoiselle," he said, in his most dignified 
tones, ' ' and rest assured that you are confiding your troub- 
les to a friend — or at least to one who hopes to become a 
friend," he made haste to add, seeing that he had gone a 
little too far. 

" I must first tell you, sir," began Eenee, " the name of 
the persons to whom you have so kindly offered your advice 
and assistance. My aunt, who will perhaps owe her life to 
you, is the Comtesse de Muire, and the sister of my de- 
ceased father, the Baron de Saint Senier." 

"You are an orphan, then?" interrupted Frapillon, 
with an air of the tenderest interest. 

' ' I lost my father in early childhood, and my mother died 
in bringing me into the world," replied the girl, in tones 
that trembled perceptibly. 

" Poor child'/' sighed the business manager of the 
' ' Serpenteau. " 

' " My aunt has taken the place of the parents I so un- 
fortunately lost in my infancy," continued Eenee. " She 
reared me as tenderly as if I had been her own daughter, 
and I have never been separated from her." 

" Noble hearts!" murmured Prapillon, lifting his eyes 
heavenward. 

" Our family consists, or rather did consist, of my brother 
— and of a cousin who bears our name — " 

J. B. Prapillon had only to listen now to learn what he 
had so long desired to know, but his detective instinct 
warned liim that a confidence of this sort must be recipro- 
cated ; and that sooner or later he would be obliged to re- 
veal his own name and place of residence. 

He had a falsehood all ready, and he was too clever to 
wait until the question was put to him. 

"' Pardon me, mademoiselle," he said; " but I feel too 
proud of your confidence not to tell you at once whom you 



216 THE RED BAND. 

honor with it. My name is Pierre Molinchard. I reside 
at No. 175, Boulevard Pigalle, where I have been practic- 
ing medicine for about ten years, and I have no other 
claim upon your esteem than that of having done a little 
good in the world. " 

This was said with an apparent frankness that would 
have deceived a veteran magistrate, and the pretended 
doctor rau no risk in thus enveloping himself in the per- 
sonality of a physician whom Taupier styled his dme damnee. 

Mme. de Muire made an almost imperceptible gesture 
that meant: 

" This is certainly a remarkably well-bred man. " 

Benee bowed slightly, and resumed her story. 

" In summer we reside upon our family estate in Bur- 
gundy; our winters we have heretofore spent in a house be- 
longing to my aunt, on the Bue d'Anjou. My brother be- 
ing in the navy, he spent very little time in France. Would 
to Heaven that duty had not called him here this year!" 

Mile. Saint Seriier's voice trembled so that she was 
obliged to pause, whereupon Frapillon cried hypocritically: 

" Ah! I understand; he has fallen a victim to this cruel 



a 



" You are mistaken, sir," continued the girl, bitterly; 

I had not the consolation of knowing that my brother 
died for his country. He was killed in a duel- — in a duel, 
01*, rather, he was — " 

She did not finish the sentence, and the terrible word 
Frapillon was expecting did not pass his lips. 

" It happened several days before the beginning of the 
siege," continued the sister of the dead man; " and we had 
but just left Maisons Laffite where we had spent such a 
happy summer when this terrible misfortune befell us. On 
the same day my brother was killed the Prussians reached 
the suburbs of Paris, and we had barely time to take ref- 
uge here. ' ' 

" Alone, and without friends?" 



THE KED HAND. 217 

" Wo had one relative/' continued Mile, de Saint Senior, 
with some embarrassment — ' ' a cousin, to whom I am be- 
trothed. " 

J. B. Frapillon lowered his eyes discreetly, but listened 
with redoubled attention. 

" My aunt had sold her house on the Rue d'Anjou, and 
our cruel bereavement making us both averse to taking up 
our abode in the fashionable part of the city, we decided to 
take possession of this cottage which has been in the pos- 
session of our family for a long time, and where my father 
died, under circumstances which have been repeated again 
and again in our family during the past half century. " 

J. B. Frapillon held his breath so as not to lose a sylla- 
ble. 

Renee had turned very pale, and she now paused as if 
she lacked strength to continue. 

" But all this can not interest you, sir," she said, at last, 
' ' and I will not trespass too much upon your patience. " 

The stranger tried to protest. 

" My cousin held a lieutenancy in the Garde Mobile of 
our native province," continued Renee, in a tone that 
effectually prevented any questions. " He was stationed 
with his company just outside the city limits, and his visits 
were our only consolation. One night an attack was made 
upon the outpost that he commanded, and Eoger, danger- 
ously wounded, fell into the hands of the enemy." 

" But he is living? You will see him again, will you 
not?" 

" He is dead," replied the girl, forcing back iicr tears. 
" He died in the hospital at Saint Germain, cared for 
by unfriendly hands, and without a friend to close his 
eyes. " 

" How do you know this?" 

" The news came through the Prussians themselves. Our 
family is not unknown in Germany, and those who killed 
kim did us this favor/' 



218 THE EED 1SAND. 

"Why, this is terrible!" exclaimed Frapillon, who 
Would have been willing to pay liberally for this valuable 
information. 

"But this is not all," continued Bonce, bitterly, " for 
God has not yet taken pity on us. Two devoted hearts wore 
left us; that of a young girl who had been with my brother 
at the last, and that of an old family servant. " 

" Well?" 

" One night the girl was taken by force from this very 
house, into which some miscreants had forced an entrance, 
and I feel certain that she must have met with a violent 
death at the hands of scoundrels to us unknown. This 
morning the faithful servant who was still watching over 
us went out, and he has not yet returned/ ' 

" Why, this is a thrilling romance that you are relating', 
my dear young lady!" exclaimed the stranger. 

" It is the lamentable truth," said Mile, de Saint Sonier, 
in tones of unutterable sadness. 

A profound silence followed. 

Mme. de Muire's hands were clasped upon her lap, and. 
big tears were rolling down her thin cheeks. Frapillon's 
heart throbbed with joy — the joy of a tiger who sees his 
prey already within his reach. 

" Poor ladies!" he said, softly. 

" Poor — yes," repeated Pence, with feverish energy. " I 
promised to tell you all, and I intend to keep my word. We 
were about to leave for Saint Senier when the siege made 
us prisoners here; my aunt had not time to receive oxpeeted 
remittances from her steward; two lone women cannot 
keep a large amount of ready money in their possession with 
safety — three months have exhausted our resources, and 
now — " 

" Ah. mademoiselle, I bless the Heavenly Father who 
placed me in your path," interrupted the pretended phy- 
sician, devoutly. " A man, you see, mademoiselle, can do 
what a young lady and an invalid would not dare to at- 



THE KED BAND. 219 

tempt. Can it be possible that there is in Paris at the 
present time no friend or relative to whom — " 

" Our poor Landreau wore himself out in his efforts to 
Snd some person of our acquaintance, but failed. " 

"But had you or your relatives no banker here in for- 
mer years?" 

" My cousin had no fortune. My brother had been here 
mly three days. " 

" And you have no bonds or securities of any kind in 
pour possession?" asked Frapillon, wishing to be sure that 
tiis victims were completely in his power. 

" Landreau took our last bank-note out to be changed 
this morning. I had just given it to him when he so mys- 
Deriously disappeared." 

" That is a good thing to know," thought Frapillon. 

Then, raising his head, the wretch said in tones of the 
deepest sympathy and solicitude: 

" You certainly will not refuse me the pleasure of assist- 
ing you, my dear child. ' ' 

" Assisting us," repeated Kenee, shaking her head with 
a doubting air. 

" Have you no confidence in me?" asked Frapillon, anx- 
ious to take immediate advantage of his opportunity. 

" Why should I not have, after all the interest you have 
manifested in us?" responded the girl, rather evasively. 

" Then be good enough to listen to me, and, first of all, 
let it be understood that the want of money is to give you 
no further anxiety. As I had the honor of telling you a 
few moments ago, I am rich, and — " 

" Pardon me, sir," said Kenee, whose pride was instant- 
ly aroused by this rather too direct remark; " I thank you 
for your kind intentions, but I must beg you not to insist. 
However great our need may be, we can not accept char- 
ity." 

" And who said anything about charity, mademoiselle?" 
exclaimed the stranger, with a sort of grave brusqueness. 



220 THE BED BAND. 

" When one bears a name like yours, and possesses a fortune 
like yours, one can get money whenever one wants it." 

" We have just had conclusive proof to the contrary, and 
until communication is opened with the provinces — ' ' 

*' Oh, that is all nonsense! Your servant could have 
known nothing about business, for the difficulties he had to 
contend with were of the most trivial nature. You may 
be acquainted with no one in Paris; but your chateau and 
your estates in Burgundy are known here. " 

" How can that be?" inquired the girl, with an air of 
astonishment. 

" It is quite evident that you know very little about busi- 
ness," remarked Frapillon with a smile. " I assure you, 
however, my dear child, that there are plenty of bankers 
who would be glad to loan you all the money you will need 
to last you until the end of the siege, and even more, upon 
the mere disclosure of your identity." 

" I had not thought of that," replied Mile, de Saint 
Senier, after a moment's reflection; "besides, as all our 
friends are absent from the city, who could recommend us 
to any banker?" 

"Why, I, of course, mademoiselle; Doctor Molinchard, 
who is sufficiently well-known, thank Heaven ! for my word 
to be considered sufficient. " 

Renee turned to Mme. de Muire, as if to ask her advice. 
" And I am quite sure that madame your aunt will see 
no objection in such an arrangement," added the doctor. 

The sick lady, who had regained her strength in some 
measure, had been listening to this conversation with evi- 
dent interest, though up to this time she had taken no part 
in it. Upon being addressed thus directly, the old lady 
started violently as if the necessity of replying was most 
distasteful to her, and in fact the feelings that were agitat- 
ing her placed her in a very embarrassing position. 

Beared in a family in which wealth had descended from 
generation to generation for centuries, and in which the cus- 



THE KED UAKJD. 221 

toms of the old regime had been ever maintained, the count- 
3ss had been accustomed to leave all business matters and 
the entire management of her fortune to her steward. She 
signed leases when it was unavoidable, but everything else 
vas left to her agent, who collected the rents, invested her 
surplus funds for her, and exercised a general supervision 
)ver the entire property. The natural result of this mode 
>f life, so common in former years, but so little practiced 
)y the wealthy in these days, was an absolute ignorance in 
•egard to all business matters; and being about a hundred 
-ears behind the times, it is not at all surprising that she 
vas greatly embarrassed and perplexed by these offers of 
pecuniary assistance from an entire stranger, especially as 
F. B. Frapillon, in spite of, or perhaps rather because of, 
lis easy and rather familiar manner, inspired her with only 
i moderate amount of confidence, and no liking whatever. 

On the other hand, the prospect of financial embarrass- 
nent that amounted to positive penury frightened her even 
nore on Renee's account than on her own, and the phy- 
sician's furnished an unhoped-for means of escape. Still, 
she had lived too long not to know the danger of placing 
me's self under obligations to comparative strangers. 

" Sir," she said, after a long silence that J. B. Frapillon 
mputed chiefly to weakness, " I am truly grateful to you 
! or your kindness, and I should not hesitate to take ad- 
vantage of it if I could feel sure that a mere recommenda- 
,ion from you would suffice with a banker." 

" A recommendation supported by my indorsement, of 
course," replied the pretended physician, who was extreme- 
y anxious to establish a claim to the gratitude of his new 
acquaintances. 

' ' That is exactly what I supposed/ ' answered the old lady, 
gently; "and consequently I can not accept such a favor 
from a — a person I have met this evening for the first time. " 

Frapillon bit his lip. He was not prepared for a deli- 
cacy of feeling that he had never encountered among his 



222 THE IvED BAND. 

clients on the Rue Cadet, and this refusal upset all his 
carefully made plans. 

" But it is no favor, as you will pay interest on the 
loan," he exclaimed, with an astonishment that was not 
feigned this time. " I have a friend who is in the banking 
business, and I should only have to say a word to him for 
you to get your money in a couple of hours. " 

It is needless to say that the friend referred to was none 
other than J. B. Frapillon himself, who intended to take 
from his own strong box the funds to chain his victims, 
his desire to win their gratitude having become much more 
great since he had found himself in the presence of the 
charming heiress of Saint Senier. 

All sorts of romantic and absurd fancies were flitting 
through his brain, among them stories of the first revolu- 
tion in which sans-culottes had saved noble damsels to 
marry them afterward. 

" So I will leave you now," he said, making a movement 
as if about to go, " but on my return I will bring you ten 
thousand francs for your immediate wants, and afterward 
we will draw up a note which you can sign if you are so 
disposed. ' ' 

" That would be equivalent to accepting this money 
from you, sir, and you must understand that such a thing 
would be impossible/' said Renee, with a cold dignity cal- 
culated to put an end to further insistence. 

" But my dear young lady, what is to become of you? " 
inquired Frapillon with the compassionate air of a man 
who sees that misfortune is inevitable, " and what is to be- 
come of Madame la Comtesse, accustomed as you both are 
to comfort and luxury?" 

" I can work," replied the young girl, quietly. 

" You work! Ah, my poor child, do you not know that 
it is well-nigh impossible for a woman to earn an honest 
living here in the best of times, and that it is a hundred 
times more difficult since the siege." 



THE KED LAND. T2'6 

" There are free distributions of food. I am not ashamed 
of my poverty. I will apply for relief — " 

And obtain nothing, for you have no friends nor relatives 
in this neighborhood, nor, indeed, any legal domicile. 
I'll wager that you haven't even a permit to purchase food. " 

" That is true," said Renee, hanging her head. 

Mme. de Muire had become very pale, indeed she looked 
very much as if she was about to faint. 

"Listen, mademoiselle," said the pretended physician, 
with kindly gravity; " I understand your refusal, and honor 
you for it, but you will not persist, in it, I am sure, when it 
amounts to positive cruelty, and it would be cruelty to ex- 
pose your aunt to further privations in her present condi- 
tion. I tell you very frankly that in that case it would be 
my duty, as a physician, to have her taken to a hospital 
immediately. " 

The young girl could not repress a nervous start. 

''Don't be alarmed, however," continud Frapillon; "I 
have another plan to submit to you, and I have sufficient 
confidence in your kindness of heart and sound common 
sense to feel sure that you will not refuse to listen to me. 
In addition to my practice I have charge of a small private 
hospital, where patients are comfortably lodged and cared 
for. Oh, do not take offense, all this is not done gratui- 
tously, I assure you. Patients pay for these attentions, 
and pay very liberally, for my patrons are all people of the 
better class. You decline to accept my money, my indorse- 
ment, or my recommendation. So be it. But I do not see 
that there is anything to prevent you from entering an 
establishment where your bill will be presented to you on 
the day of your departure. You most assuredly can accept 
from me the same credit that would be granted you at a 
hotel in Dieppe or Vichy." 

This time Mile, de Saint Senier's face revealed an emo- 
tion which Mme. de Muire seemed to share. 

Frapillon awaited their reply with no little anxiety. 



m 



THE RED BAND. 



What he had just said was partially true, after all, inasmuch 
as such a private hospital really existed, under the charge of 
the Dr. Mohuchard, whose name he had already appropriated. 
" What is that noise:" asked Eenee, suddenly. 

Frapillon listened with secret dismay. 

Repeated blows were resounding upon the little gate on 
the Rue de Laval, and in the silence of the night the 
noise assumed a really ominous character. One was 
almost tempted to believe that a mob was besieging the house. 

"Are you expecting, any one?" inquired Frapillon, 
greatly annoyed at this unexpected interruption. 

" No one/' replied Mile, de Saint Senier, who seemed 
much frightened. 

" Then these persons must have made c, mistake in the 
house." 

" I am afraid not," replied Mme. de Muire, " especially 
as we seem to have been regarded with suspicion in the 
neighborhood for some time past. Almost every day our 
poor Landreau has been obliged to answer all sorts of ques- 
tions in regard to us, and I fear that his disappearance may 
have led to an invasion of this sort. " 

" The uproar is increasing/' remarked the physician. 

It was evident now that several persons Avere battering 
at the door with implements of divers kinds, and it seemed 
more than probable that it would eventually yield to the 
combined efforts of the crowd. 

Frapillon did not know what action to take. 

An incident which he would have done his best to pro- 
mote the evening before deranged all his plans now he had 
succeeded in effecting a peaceable entrance into the place; 
but he finally decided that it would be better for him to go 
and meet the intruders than to await the intrusion of an 
enraged throng. 

" Will you allow me to go and see what the matter is, 
ladies?" he inquired, rising. 

And without giving them time to reply he left the room 



THE KED BAND. 325 

and hastened down the walk to the gate in the wall which 
lie unhesitatingly threw open. 

He had scarcely done so before at least a dozen persons 
pushed by him into the yard. 

" What do you want, citizens:' 1 asked J. B. Frapillon, 
coolly. 

Though he addressed them as citizens there were several 
women in the party, and in the foremost rank appeared the 
three charming creatures who had occupied the next tabic 
at the Rat-Mort. 

In fact, Mmo. Irma seemed to have assumed command 
of the party, for she stalked into the yard with the impos- 
ing air of a drum-major, and it was she who took it upon 
herself to reply. 

" We want to go through this house," she said, in a tone 
of authority. 

" And by what authority do you thus force an entrance 
into a private dwelling?" demanded Frapillon, who did 
not hesitate to appeal to the law when it suited his interests. 

"In the name of the jieople," responded Mme. Irma, 
majestically. 

" Yes, yes!" cried the others. 

" Still, you can hardly refuse to tell what you expect to 
find here?" 

" We want to see those two female aristocrats who are in 
league with the Prussians." 

While this conversation was going on Frapillon was en- 
gaged in studying the crowd, which proved to be much less 
formidable than he had feared, for in spite of the threats 
he had. heard in the cafe, there seemed to be no official at 
the head of the party, probably because Mme. Irma had 
not had time to pay a visit to a commissioner of police. 

Nor was the crowd vory large; the three women, half a 
dozen gamins, and seven or eight working-men with two or 
three citizens of the middle class made up the entire party. 

It was among these last that Frapillon hoped to find 

8 



226 THE RED BAND. 

some benevolent auxiliary, and he was scrutinizing the 
faces of those nearest him, when he suddenly felt a light 
pressure on his arm, and turning, he saw that the person 
who had touched him so cautiously was the very physician 
whose identity he had assumed for the time being. 

This Molinchard, a very obscure member of the Paris 
medical faculty, was a tall, slim man, about forty years of 
age, with long straight hair that hung down upon his coat 
collar and a thin sallow face. 

Though a graduate of medicine, and the possessor of a 
genuine diploma, Molinchard had taken a deep interest in 
politics from his youth, and as he had not the ability to 
hew out his way alone, he had allied himself closely with 
the clever and audacious Prapillon, and had become one of 
the numerous pawns that the strategist of the Eue Cadet 
manipulated so skillfully. 

Molinchard obeyed each word or sign from his chief like 
an automaton, and the response was, in this instance, an 
imperious glance in which the submissive physician read a 
command to be silent. 

Sure now of the assistance of this devoted slave, J. B. 
Frapillon began his defense of his protegees with a much 
lighter heart. 

" You are mistaken, madame/' he said, politely turning 
to the irascible Phemia. " The persons who reside here 
are true patriots, and they do not spend their time in mak- 
ing signals to the enemy for the best of reasons — both of 
them are ill. " 

" You can't make us believe that," cried the spiteful Irma. 
" I saw one of them in the street only a few moments ago." 

" She conquered her own weakness in order to go out in 
search of me, and bring me to the bedside of her almost 
dying aunt. For I have the honor to be a physician, " added 
Prapillon, with a dignity that was not without its effect, 
especially as members of the medical fraternity are privi- 
leged characters in civilized and uncivilized countries alike. 



T11K UliU J (AND. 22? 

"It is quite possible that he is telling us the truth, ' ; 
muttered the compassionate Aglae. 

" This is all very fine, but you will have to prove it. " 

" Yes, certainly," chimed in Phemia. 

" Come, let us go through the house," cried a laborer. 

" Citizens, I have the greatest possible respect for the 
patriotic motives that animate you, but I should fail in my 
duty as a physician if I consented to an exciting visit that 
might prove fatal to at least one of my patients." 

An approving murmur was heard, and Frapillon, en- 
couraged by this exhibition of sympathy, continued: 

" I would suggest, therefore, that three of your number 
accompany me into the house. This gentleman, for in- 
stance," pointing, as if by chance, to his faithful coadjutor, 
Molinchard, ' ' madame here, " turning to the tender-hearted 
Aglae, " and any other person who chooses to go. Then, if 
you find that I have told you the truth, I hope you will do 
me the favor to retire quietly/' 

" Agreed! agreed!" cried the crowd. 

The two persons designated promptly stepped to the 
pretended physician's side, and were immediately joined by 
cine of the most zealous advocates of the visit. 

" I ask only five minutes, citizens, and I must beg you 
to keep quiet until my return — for humanity's sake," 
added Frapillon, who knew that grandiloquent phrase? 
never fail to make an impression on a crowd. 

The little party then proceeded toward the cottage, 
Aglae, who was evidently much flattered by the preference 
shown her, leading the way. Molinchard and Frapillon 
walked immediately behind her. 

" Swear to whatever I say," the pretended physician 
whispered to the real one. 

" All right; I understand," replied his willing tool, in 
the same tone. 

On reaching the door of the cottage Frapillon stopped 
the little party, and remarked : 



228 THE llEt) BAKU. 

" I fear that our sudden entrance might startle these 
poor ladies, so if you will allow me I will step on ahead, 
and inform them of your intended visit, and then return to 
escort you in. " 

" Do so, citizen, do so, of course," responded the peo- 
ple's delegate, promptly. " This little lady here will keep 
me company." 

Agla6 bowed with a gracious smile. 

" But now I think of it," remarked the business man- 
ager of the " Serpenteau," catching the ball on the re- 
bound, as the saying is, " perhaps it would be better to 
accustom these ladies gradually to the visitors they are to 
have, so this gentleman can accompany me," he added, 
turning to Molinchard. " 

And without waiting to hear any objections he led the 
way to the apartment he hud left a few moments before, 
closely followed by the iong-haircd doctor. 

The door at the end of the hall had been left ajar, and 
Frapillon was only obliged to push it open to enter. There 
had been no change in the mournful aspect of the room 
since his departure. Mmc. de Muire was still sitting mo- 
tionless in her arm-chair; L'oin'e was holding one of her 
aunt's hands, and gazing up into her face, and the conver- 
sation which had passed between them during the absence 
of their pretended benefactor must have been very sorrowful 
in its nature, for there were traces of tears on their cheeks. 

The astonishment depicted upon the faces of the aunt 
and niece on perceiving Molinchard was not in the least 
hostile, however, for though capable of all sorts of knavery, 
the doctor looked like a fool, and wore such a benign air 
on first acquaintance that one was very likely to be deceived 
in regard to his true character. 

On this occasion he bowed awkwardly, with the shrink- 
ing and modest air of a debutante that a more experienced 
friend has just introduced into society for the first time. 

"We were needlessly alarmed, my dear ladies," re- 



THE KED BAXD. 229 

marked Frapillon, " though mademoiselle here was cer- 
tainly not mistaken in supposing that an unruly crowd was 
besieging the door." 

" Why! what harm have we ever done to any one?" 

" None, most assuredly, but the doar people are incapa- 
ble of reasoning calmly just now, and they distrust every- 
thing they do not understand. " 

" Explain, if you please/' said Mme. dc Muire, anxiously. 

" Permit me first to introduce to you a gentleman who 
has been of great assistance to me in quieting these luna- 
tics. This gentleman is a personal friend of mine, who 
happened to be passing, and thanks to our united efforts, 
we have been able to gain a slight respite. " 

" What! those people are still here?" exclaimed Mile, 
de Saint Senier in alarm. 

Frapillon' s only reply was a grave nod. 
What do they want?" asked Eenee, haughtily. 
They want to explore this house from top to bottom." 
That is impossible!" exclaimed Ren£e, springing up 
in great agitation. " One's private life must be respected, 
and though I am a woman, I assure you that I will find 
means to prevent such a flagrant violation of the laws as this. ' ' 

'* There must be some jealously guarded secret here," 
thought Frapillon. Then he said, aloud — 

'"' Very little attention is paid to the laws in these days, 
unfortunately, and an entrance is often forced into private 
dwellings now on the same pretext they give. " 

" And of what crime are we accused, if you please?" 
demanded Kenee, scornfully. 

"Of — I really beg your pardon for repeating such an 
absurdity — of making signals to the enemy." 

" Signals to the enemy!" repeated Mile, de Saint Senier, 
completely bewildered,f or she had never before had an oppor- 
tunity to fathom the depths of Parisian folly and stupidity. 

"Yes," replied Frapillon, shrugging his shoulders. 
"They pretend that a light appears in the second story 



230 THE BED BAND. 

every night, about eight o'clock. This light, they say, is 
of a peculiar color — blue or green — I've forgotten which.'" 

The young girl turned pale, and her aunt's pallid face 
betrayed deep emotion. 

"But this is abominable!" exclaimed Eenee. "Are 
the people as stupid as they are ferocious?" 

"Alas! mademoiselle, you are only too correct in your 
supposition, for I havo seen the most shameful outrages 
committed of late, upon just such frivolous pretexts as this. " 

After making this by no means reassuring remark, Fra- 
pillon paused to note its effect. 

If he wished to terrify the two women, he had succeeded 
beyond a doubt, for they seemed to be speechless with con- 
sternation, and thinking the moment had come to strike a 
decisive blow, he was about to speak, when Mile, de Saint 
Senier checked him with a gesture. 

" This cottage, where my father died, is a sacred place, 
and while I live no mob shall enter it," she said, in tones of 
firm resolve. " No, they shall not," she added, beginning 
to pace the floor with an agitated step, 

" You did not allow me to finish, mademoiselle," said 
Frapillon, soothingly. " I was about to tell you that for 
this evening, at least, the danger can be averted if you 
will consent to make a slight concession which 1 will ex- 
plain in a moment, but — " 

" But what?" 

"I can not vouch for the future. What occurred to- 
day, may occur again to-morrow; and so long as you con- 
tinue to reside here your slightest act will be misconstrued, 
and will probably cause a catastrophe sooner or later." 

" What are we to do, then?" 

" Take my advice and leave this house, not to-morrow, 
but this very night, and take up your abode, in company 
with your aunt, in my private hospital, where no one will 
come to trouble you, I promise you." 

Had Mile, de Saint Senier suspected the twofold mean- 



THE KED BAXD. 231 

ing of these words she would have reflected long before she 
replied. But she was laboring under an excitement that 
deprived her of the power to reason calmly, and Mme. de 
Muire seemed to be struck by the advantages of the plan, 
for she nodded her head approvingly, as her niece said to 
the pretended doctor — 

"Ah, well! so be it, doctor. I feel sure, sir, that you 
are incapable of betraying the confidence two unprotected 
and defenseless women repose in you, and we will accom- 
pany yon upon one condition — " 

" That is accepted in advance. " 

'*' That I can come here as often as I like, and come alone." 

'"' 2So thing could be easier. You can take the key away with 
you this evening,and revisit the cottage as often as you please. 
You may rest assured that I have no intention of making 
you a prisoner, my dear young lady," he added, smiling. 

"' But how are we to get rid of this dangerous crowd?" 
asked Benee. 

" Leave that to me," replied Frapillon. 

And turning to Molinchard, who up to this time had 
played the part of a mere looker-on, he said — 

" Will you have the kindness, my friend, to bring in the 
two persons who are waiting in the hall?" 

The physician obeyed with the subrnissiveness of an 
Eastern slave. 

"' The delegates I am obliged to introduce to you do not 
belong to the highest social rank," remarked their bene- 
factor, ' "' but I must implore you to exercise a little charity, 
especially as I promise you that the interview shall not be 
a long one." 

He had scarcely uttered these words when Molinchard reap- 
peared, escorting the sentimental Aglae and her new admirer. 

Frapillon, who understood the human heart pretty 
thoroughly, had not gone too far in promising that the in- 
terview would prove a short and eminently satisfactory one, 
for the emissaries of the people showed no lacK of feeling 



332 THE RED BAJN'D. 

when they beheld the two lone women whose pale faces 
wore an expression of such deep grief. 

The man paused upon the threshold, twirling his cap in 
his hand, and Aglae wiped her eyes without making any 
attempt to enter. 

" You see that I have not deceived you, my friends, and 
that these poor ladies are only grief -stricken, unoffensive 
fellow-creatures," remarked Frapillon. " Xow let us go 
and reassure your companions." 

As he placed himself at the head of the little party that 
seemed ready and anxious to beat a retreat, he found an 
opportunity to whisper to Molinchard : 

" Go away with the crowd, but return for me in half an 
hour with a carriage. " 

CHAPTER X. 

Dr. alolikcitard's private hospital had nothing in com- 
mon with the magnificent establishments of that kind 
which rear their imposing fronts along the road to Passy or 
Auteuil. A long building,awkwardly planted upon the side of 
Montniartre that overlooks the plain of Saint Denis, and a 
series of court-yards, surrounded by whitewashed walls, com- 
posed the structure and appurtenances under this very 
democratic physician's supervision. 

The building was originally intended for a factory, but 
after the failure of the unfortunate manufacturer who for- 
merly occupied it,Molinchard succeeded in leasing it at a very 
low rate. The oracle of the Eue Cadet having declared that a 
private hospital in that unpretentious part of the city and in 
the immediate vicinity of the fortifications was an absolute 
necessity, Molinchard, who had been vainly endeavoring 
to establish himself in a lucrative practice for several years, 
did not demur especially when the broker offered to ad- 
vance the money for the establishment of the institution, 
and allow him one half of the profits, which would be sure 
to amount to a handsome figure. 



THE RED BAND. 233 

He found this new position eminently to his taste, par- 
ticularly as it gave him quite an enviable notoriety in the 
neighborhood, and the honors of a deputyship seemed like- 
ly to be conferred upon him at no very distant day. 

Since the revolution his importance had greatly in- 
creased, and the siege augmented not only the number of 
his patrons, but his fame. 

He had, of course, decorated the main door-way of his 
establishment with the red cross of the sanitary commis- 
sion; and though he received very few wounded soldiers, 
his doors were ever open to members of the National Guard 
who were rendered unfit for duty by a severe cold or an 
attack of bronchitis. 

Indeed, cases of this kind had become so numerous that 
the certificates of illness furnished by the doctor yielded 
him quite a handsome addition to his income. 

Yet, in spite of this prosperity, the hospital was con- 
ducted upon the same economical scale. There was a large 
dormitory for the men, and half a dozen meagerly fur- 
nished rooms for female patients, all provided with iron 
bedsteads, cane-seat chairs and pine tables. A cantiniere 
who had retired from the service after a long sojourn in 
Algeria, and who was much more of a proficient in the art 
of mixing drinks than in the art of nursing, attended to 
the wants of the female patients; while the others were 
served by a sort of Jack-of-all-trades, who had been by 
turns an apothecary's clerk, a drummer in the National 
Guard, and a cook, and who found an ample field for his 
varied talents in this establishment. 

The court-yards, which were three in number, strongly 
resembled the court-yards of a prison, for they were not 
only entirely destitute of verdure, bat they did not even 
ullow the patients a pleasant view, for they were inclosed by 
grim walls that reached nearly to the second story windows. 

At one end of the large building used by the ordinary 
patients, rose the sharply pointed roof of a small house 



234 THE RED BAND. 

which probably served as the residence of the owner of the 
factory in former times. It contained two bedrooms and 
a small parlor and dining-room— all tolerably well fur- 
nished. The windows of this secluded retreat looked out 
upon a small yard, where some effort had evidently been 
made to secure a growth of grass, while a few straggling 
rose-bushes and the clematis that covered the wall at the 
end of the yard afforded a welcome relief to the eye. 

This poor attempt at a garden could be entered by a 
gate which opened into a vacant lot adjoining, and a covered 
passage-way connected the cottage with the main building. 

It was to this secure place of concealment in the very 
heart of Paris that the crafty Frapillon had conducted 
Mme. de Muire and her niece. Taken there in the dead 
of night, in a carriage procured by Molinchard, after the 
dispersal of the mob, the poor ladies had not the slightest 
idea of the route they had followed, and so intense was the 
state of excitement caused by the events of that terrible 
night, that they felt no misgivings in regard to the possible 
consequences of the change they had so hastily made. Nor 
was there anything that was likely to excite distrust in the 
manner in which they had been installed in their new abode. 

J. B. Frapillon had escorted them there, and after com- 
mending them to the special care of the real Dr. Molin- 
chard, he had taken leave of them, promising to see them 
again the next day; and the aunt and niece retired for the 
night, without even saying anything to each other about their 
first impressions of the place, so great was their fatigue. 

It was late the next morning when Mile, de Saint Senier 
awoke, a little surprised to find herself in a strange place. 
The events of the previous night soon recurred to her 
mind, however, and she dressed herself very quietly, tak- 
ing care not to wake her aunt. 

It was her intention to pay a visit to her old home as 
soon as possible, for their departure had been so hurried 
that a trip to the Eue de Laval was necessary to procure a 



THE BED BAND. 235 

host of articles needed in their new home. Renee, who 
had other reasons for wishing to return to the cottage 
without delay, was surprised to see or hear no one moving 
about, and went down into the garden in the hope of meet- 
ing some one there. 

To her great astonishment a profound solitude seemed 
to reign everywhere, and she began to survey the high 
walls that surrounded her on every side with a vague un- 
easiness and distrust, especially after she had several times 
called in vain the girl who had waited upon them the night 
before, and whose name she happened to remember. 

She finally concluded that her call had not been heard, 
however, and said to herself that their duties in the hos- 
pital proper probably detained the attendants in the other 
part of the establishment; besides, the hour was sufficient- 
ly early to explain the complete solitude in which the new- 
comers had been left, so she cheerfully concluded to await 
the doctor's visit, or the arrival of one of his subordinates. 

To pass away the time, she decided to explore the garden. 

This did not take long, however, for the space inclosed 
was not more than twelve yards square. 

Eenee loved flowers and verdure, and the desolate and 
neglected air that pervaded the entire place shocked her 
almost as much as the sight of an invalid wasting away 
for want of tender care would have shocked her, for the 
grass seemed to have never been neither watered nor cut for 
a long time, branches of the rose-bushes that bordered the 
walks were lying untrimmed upon the ground, and the 
gravel paths were thickly covered with leaves. Nor was 
this all. Glancing around her, she noticed for the first 
time that the walls were high, and that the bars that pro- 
tected the windows were very heavy; the fresh air and sun- 
light, too, that are so dear to convalescents were lacking, 
and this retreat for invalids seemed to her very like a prison. 
To rid herself of this painful impression, she hastily re- 
turned to the rooms she had just left, for there at least 



236 THE RED BAND. 

reigned a comparative comfort that might make her forget 
for awhile, at least, the cheerless appearance of the grounds. 

Mme. de Muire was still sleeping. Renee had an op- 
portunity to examine the little drawing-room and dining- 
room more closely than she had done the evening before. 

The furniture was comparatively new, and the hangings 
fresh, but here, too, one discerned the same signs of neglect 
that seemed to be the distinctive feature of the place. 

The sofa and chairs were covered with dust, the window- 
panes had become opaque for want of washing, and the 
imitation bronze clock on the mantel did not appear to 
have ever been wound. Two charred bits of wood, which 
had been there probably ever since the winter before, were 
lying in the ashes in the fire-place, and it made one shiver 
merely to glance at the fireless hearth. 

In the dining-room, the dishes in which the frugal sup 
per of the night before had been served, were still upon 
the table, and the sight of the unappetizing remnants of a 
hastily improvised repast contributed not a little to the 
dissatisfaction with her surroundings that the young girl 
was bcirinninc to feel. 

The luxury to which she had been accustomed from 
childhood had become a necessity to her, and this neglect, 
verging upon positive uncleanliness, was revolting to her 
(1 plicate organization. 

Dut more important discoveries soon engrossed her atten- 
tion. She noticed that the door leading into the main 
building was fastened by a heavy lock, and that the key 
was on the other side, so it was evident that the occupants 
of the cottage would be unable to leave it without the 
knowledge or permission of the superintendent of the es- 
tablishment. It would be necessary, too, to wait until his 
subordinates unlocked the door, and Mile, de Saint Senier 
was very naturally astonished to find her aunt and herself 
thus left to the mercy of a servant. 

She looked around in vain for a bell-rope or an electric 



THE RED £Atfi>. 237 

bell, and becoming irritated at last by her enforced isolation, 
she began to pound upon the door with almost childish anger. 

But this attempt to attract attention proved as futile as 
her previous calls, and she retraced her steps, deeply de- 
ploring the imprudence of which she had been guilty in 
coming to this strange house, as she walked mechanically 
toward the garden she had left a few moments before. 

As she entered it she could not repress an exclamation 
of surprise, for the doctor was there, or at least the person 
she supposed to be the proprietor of the establishment; 
that is to say, J. B. Frapillon, in person. 

Fresh, calm, and smiling, the pretended physician ad- 
vanced toward her, hat in hand, and bowed to bis new 
patient with all the grace acquired in the exercise of his 
numerous professions. 

How had he gained an entrance into this court-yard, so 
deserted a moment before, and apparently so secure from 
any possible intrusion? 

This was the first question that occurred to Mile, de 
Saint Senier; and in the hasty glance that accompanied this 
thought she perceived a low gate that she had not noticed 
before in the vine-covered wall. This cleverly concealed 
opening alone gave access to the garden, so the doctor 
must have come, not from the hospital of which he had 
charge, but from without — a new discovery that struck 
Kenee very unpleasantly. 

"Permit me, mademoiselle," he began with an obse- 
cmiousness of tone that was contradicted by the rather 
ironical expression in his eye, " permit me to compliment 
you upon the brilliancy of your coloring this morning. I 
see that rest and the excellent air we enjoy here have 
already had their effect." 

Mile, de Saint Senier's only reply to this compliment was 
a rather scornful glance. 

" I must ask you, first of all, sir, to tell me where 1 
am," she said haughtily. 



238 THE KED BAND. 

" Why, my dear young lady, you know as well as I do," 
replied Frapillon in pretended astonishment. " You are 
in my hospital at Montmartre, the Villa on the Cliffs, 
where, I assure you, you will receive every attention your 
health demands. " 

"You do not answer my question, sir," responded 
Eenee, with cold firmness. " Perhaps I did not express 
my meaning very clearly, but I would like to know how 
one enters and leaves this place. " 

" By the door, of course, mademoiselle," answered 
Frapillon, impudently, seeing that any further attempt at 
deception would be worse than useless. 

" A truce to this jesting, sir. In my agitation of yester- 
day I consented to an arrangement that I would have done 
well to weigh more carefully; and to-day I wish to regain 
my liberty.'' 5 

" And who thinks of such a thing as depriving you of 
it?" exclaimed the hypocrite, clasping his hands. 

" You will hardly have the audacity to try and persuade 
me that these walls and heavy iron bars are the usual 
adornments of hospitals," remarked Eenee. 

"But we have some very excitable patients, and for' 
their own sakes — " 

" What do you mean:" inquired Mile, de Saint Senier, 
with a nervous shudder. 

" Certainly nothing that affects you in any way," replied 
Frapillon tranquilly. 

" So you will not even take the trouble to deny that we 
are prisoners here. I rose about an hour ago; I called, but 
no one came. I looked for a door, but the only one I could 
find was securely locked. You must admit that I have 
abundant grounds for complaint and for demanding an ex- 
planation of this strange state of things. " 

" I regret extremely that our one maid has kept you 
waiting, my dear young lady; but we have a good many 
patients, just now — 



THE RK1) BAND. 23'J 

" That is immaterial, sir. Tell me how I can leave this 
house." 

'' And why do you wish to leave it?" inquired the pre- 
tended doctor after a moment's silence. 

" You ask me that?" exclaimed Kenee angrily. " Have 
you already forgotten that I consented to accompany you 
here on condition that I might visit the cottage on the Kue 
de Laval every day?" 

'' No, certainly not; hut you would be guilty of a great 
imprudence if you went there to-day. " 

" And why, if you please?" 

" Do you suppose that the attempt to force an entrance 
into your house last evening has created no talk in the 
neighborhood? Are you so unsophisticated as to suppose 
that the police have not been informed of the affair, and 
that the cottage is not under close surveillance?" 

Mile, de Saint Senier turned pale, and hung her head. 

" In fact, I should not be at all surprised if the commis- 
sioner of police paid a visit to the house during the day; 
and I assure you that it is a very fortunate thing that you 
are safe here. Besides, why is it absolutely necessary for 
you to go to the Eue de Laval this morning?" 

" I should suppose you would understand that it would 
be necessary for me to go there to procure clothing if for 
no other reason," replied Mile, de Saint Senier, not with- 
out embarrassment. 

" Of course; and it was in regard to that very matter I 
came to speak to you. I will cheerfully take charge of 
transporting here anything you may need if you will trust 
me with the keys of the cottage. " 

" Trust the keys to you? Never!" exclaimed Eenee. 

" I must have them, nevertheless," said Erapillon, look- 
ing the girl straight in the eye. 

Frapillon was simply making an experiment in adopting 
tms tone of command, for he had no intention of resorting 
to force, at least not at present. 



240 THE BED HAND. 

The events that had placed the inmates of the cottage in 
his power were known only to Molinchard and liimself, so 
it was possible for him to unite with Taupier and Valnoir 
or to operate upon his own account, as he saw fit. In the 
latter case, gentleness was indispensable; in the former, it 
might become necessary to suppress the ladies altogether, 
to use the hunchback's favorite expression. 

In accordance with his invariable custom, Frapillon was 
first feeling his ground with the intention of deciding upon 
his tactics afterward. The attempt in this case certainly 
did not prove a promising one. 

"You— must — have— them!" repeated Mile, de Saint 
Senier, emphasizing each word as she uttered it. "I have 
no order to receive from you that I am aware of. " 

The response was accompanied by such a haughty glance 
that the pretended physician saw he had made a mistake. 

" You misunderstand my meaning, my dear young 
lady," he said, in gentle tones. " I am so accustomed to 
talking to patients who are devoid of reason that I uncon- 
sciously express myself a little too brusquely at times. But 
you must not take offense, particularly as I beg you to ex- 
cuse me." 

Eenee ignored the apology entirely. It mattered very 
little to her what terms Frapillon saw fit to use in address- 
ing his patients; but one expression that he used struck 
her very forcibly. 

The so-called superintendent of this strange establish- 
ment had just alluded to a certain class of patients the mere 
mention of which made the young girl shudder. 

The year had been prolific in stories of arrests arbitrarily 
made on the plea of insanity; and Eenee asked herself in 
terror if she could have allowed herself to be taken to a 
private insane asylum. 

Once before, in the very beginning of the conversation, 
this singular physician had alluded to excitable patients, 
and such expressions were beginning to sound alarming. 



THE KED liANIJ. 241 

"To what malady do you refer, sir?" she asked, deter- 
mined to know the truth. " Can it be that you treat — " 

'" Mental diseases here? Yes, certainly, as well as phys- 
ical," replied Frapillon, tranquilly. 

This admission very naturally filled Renee with horror. 

So she was, indeed, in a mad-house, located, she knew 
not where, and without any means of informing her friends 
of her situation, even supposing that there was any one in 
Paris who took an interest in her fate. The veil fell from 
her eyes; and it seemed to her that an insurmountable bar- 
rier had just arisen between her and the outside world. 

But the very imminence of her danger gave her strength 
to control herself; besides, a moment's reflection made the 
situation appear more reassuring. 

A man would not be very likely to abduct and imprison 
two women he had never seen before; and she had no sus- 
picion of the real motives that had actuated Frapillon. 
Besides, the girl did not see that any person would gain 
anything by committing such a crime, so she finally per- 
suaded herself that she had to deal with an ill-bred man 
whose intentions were excellent, in spite of his rough 
speech, and she resolved to reserve her decision and gain 
time, if possible. 

' ' The close proximity of unfortunate creatures who have 
lost their minds always alarms and depresses me," she said, 
much more calmly; " and I am very much afraid that my 
aunt can not accustom herself to such surroundings. " 

" Oh, you need have no fears on that score, my dear young 
lady. You will never see or hear them, and you might re- 
main here for years without even suspecting their presence. " 

This allusion to the possibility of a long sojourn made 
Mile, de Saint Senier's blood curdle in her veins. 

" I hope that I shall not be put to the test," she an- 
swered, forcing a smile, " and that we shall be obliged to 
trespass upon your hospitality but a short time. " 

" The siege has only just begun, perhaps/' said the pre- 



242 THE BED BAND. 

tended doctor, shaking his head with the important air of a 
man who knows more than he is willing to tell. 

"Indeed! do you really think so?" asked Eenee, who 
could not help turning pale at the thought that the ordeal 
might outlast her powers of endurance. 

" We still have provisions enough to last six months," 
replied Frapillon sententiously, though he did not believe 
a word of it. 

" God will grant us patience and courage/' murmured 
the girl. 

" And I promise you that you shall not find life too 
wearisome here, mademoiselle. The first impression is not 
very pleasing, perhaps; but one can manage to exist; be- 
sides, there will soon be nothing to prevent you from going 
out occasionally.'" 

" You will not object to that?" 

" Why should I?" replied Frapillon, who had decided to 
adopt gentle measures- " You are not in a prison; and as 
soon as the Eue de Laval becomes quiet again- you can pay 
a visit to the cottage. " 

" I should like to go as soon as possible," answered Mile, 
de Saint Senier, somewhat reassured. 

" Day after to-morrow, or to-morrow, perhaps; and I 
promise you that I will never ask you for your keys again. ' ' 

But the scoundrel at that very moment was saying to 
himself: 

" I shall manage to secure them without your permis- 
sion, however." 

"But now I think of it," he added, aloud, "I must 
show you how to call the servants so there may be no repe- 
tition of your unpleasant experience of this morning. " 

Eenee, greatly reassured by this apparent frankness, 
thanked him with a bow; and in obedience to a gracious 
gesture from Frapillon, she led the way to the house. 

She had scarcely crossed the threshold, when she was struck 
by the change that had taken place during her brief absence. 



THE KED 13AND. 243 

A bright fire was blazing on the hearth, the clock was 

going, and the dust had been carefully removed from the 

furniture, while through the open door leading into the 

dining-rooms she caught sight of a table covered with snow- 

vhite linen, and laden with glass and china. 

Astonished at the quickness with which this agreeable 
metamorphosis had been accomplished, Eenee turned to 
thank her companion for the orders to which this change 
was undoubtedly due. 

But she saw no one. 

Prapillon had disappeared. 

Mile, de Saint Senier's astonishment amounted to posi- 
tive stupefaction. 

Seized by an irresistible curiosity, she stepped back to the 
door, and looked out into the garden. 

It was vacant. 

Ee-entering the house she went first to the dining-room 
in the hope of finding the woman who had waited on them 
the night before, but in this, too, she was disappointed. 

Not a human soul was visible. 

Bewildered and alarmed Mile, de Saint Senier resolved 
to lose no time in consulting her aunt. 

Mme. de Muire had not yet made her appearance, though 
it was long past the hour at which she usually woke. 

On gently lifting the portiere that separated the little 
parlor from her aunt's sleeping apartment, Renee uttered 
a cry of positive terror. 

The bed was empty. 

She sprung forward and laid her hand on the place where 
her aunt had lain. 

The place was cold. 

She glanced hastily about the chamber. 

Mme. de Muire's clothing was nowhere to be seen; the 
toilet articles she had brought with her had also disap- 
peared. Indeed, had it not been for the disordered bed, 
one would have supposed that she room had not been occu- 



244 THE BED BAND. 

pied at all. Amazed and terrified by this mysterious dis- 
appearance, the girl sunk into an arm-chair, and burying 
her face in her hands, she tried to compose her thoughts. 

The night before she had assisted her aunt, as usual, in 
her preparations for retiring; and Mme. de Muire, who 
had entirely recovered from her nervous attack, had ap- 
peared calm and even cheerful. 

" You must call me early to-morrow morning, my dear 
child/' she said, as her niece left the room, " and don't 
forget your visit to the Rue de Laval." 

Mile, de Saint Senier recalled every incident connected 
with this last interview; and her 'aunt's mysterious depart- 
ure seemed all the more incomprehensible, especially as 
everything was in order, and neither the furniture nor the 
bed showed the slightest sign of violence. 

Hence it seemed more than probable that Mme. de 
Muire's departure had been entirely voluntary. 

But how, and at what time, had it been effected? Benee 
noticed that the candle which was standing upon a table by 
the bedside had been burned but a few moments, so her 
aunt must have gone to sleep immediately after their part- 
ing ; and everything seemed to indicate that she had not 
waked until morning, consequently she had probably dis- 
appeared during Renee's conversation with the doctor in 
the garden; and she even had a slight suspicion that there 
had been a scheme to occupy her attention there and to 
profit by her brief absence from the house to get Mme. de 
Muire away. 

"But how could they have taken her away?" murmured 
the young girl, recollecting the arrangement of the interior. 

The only door that communicated with the main building 
opened from the dining-room, and the countess could not 
have passed out that way. 

Unable to solve the mystery, Benee finally rose and 
walked slowly to the little parlor whose greatly improved 
appearance showed that it had certainly been visited during 



THE RED BAX"D. "-240 

her walk in the garden. At Mile, de Saint Senier's age 
one takes fright quickly, but it is difficult to believe in 
sinister motives, and one eagerly seizes upon the slightest 
ray of hope,, so Renee was already trying to persuade her- 
self that lime, de Muire's absence could be easily explained. 

'"' The other physician must have come in," she thought, 
' ; and invited my aunt to go through the other part of the 
house, while the servant was putting our rooms in order. "' 

And without pausing to reflect upon the improbable side 
of this reassuring hypothesis, Benee passed on into the din- 
ing-room. 

There, to her great surprise, she found that the servant's 
attention had not been confined to laying the table. She 
had also brought in breakfast. 

A very appetizing bird-pie occupied the place of honor in 
the center of the table, flanked by a plate of Dutch cheese ; 
and a large bowl of chocolate was smoking upon a waiter 
adorned with slices of delicate toast. There were also two 
cut-glass decanters on the table; one filled with water, the 
other with vine. 

At that stage of the siege this was a very luxurious re- 
past, and few Parisians enjoyed the like, especially in the 
by no means opulent neighborhood of Montmartre; and, 
however indifferent Mile, de Saint Senier might be to the 
pleasures of the table, she could hardly fail to see a kindly 
feeling in these preparations. 

'"'My aunt will soon return/' she thought, "and the 
physician who accompanies her will probably explain every- 
thing satisfactorily. ' ' 

So seating herself at the table, she began to indulge iu 
all sorts of conjectures, her eyes all the while riveted upon 
the door through which she fully expected to see her rela- 
tive enter at any moment. 

It did not open, however, and though the girl listened 
breathlessly no sound broke the profound silence that per- 
vaded the solitary apartment. 



246 THE RED LAND. 

Ever and anon Kenee fanciecTshe heard footsteps on the 
other side of the partition, but on listening more attentively 
she was forced to admit that her imagination had deceived 
her. 

Suddenly glancing mechanically at the neatly spread 
table, she perceived that the breakfast had been prepared 
for but one person. There was but one napkin and one 
glass placed beside a single plate directly in front of the 
chair which she was occupying, and which an unknown 
hand had drawn to the table. 

This single plate had a frightful significance. It said 
more plainly than any words could have done: " You 
need wait for no one. You are to eat alone." 

Eenee understood it in an instant, and her vague alarm 
changed into positive terror. 

It was impossible to doubt that she was the victim of 
some foul conspiracy now. 

Mme. de Muire had probably been enticed to some other 
part of the house, on some plausible pretext, and shut up 
there away from her niece; and the unfortunate young girl 
saw herself condemned to an isolation, the object of which 
she could not understand, but whose possible consequence 
she could not contemplate without a shudder. 

With wildly staring eyes and pallid cheeks, she sprung to 
her feet, and began to rush frantically about the apart- 
ments which had become suddenly transformed into a 
prison; but she could find no place of egress, and finally 
returned, as if by a sort of instinct, to this door which sepa- 
rated her from the second mother these scoundrels had 
just torn from her. 

She called her frantically again and again, and in her de- 
spair at last ran out into the garden. 

It was beginning to snow again, and the gray sky cast a 
still more gloomy tinge upon the grim walls that formed 
the poor captor's only horizon. 

A death-like silence increased the horrors of the place, 



THE K£U BAND. ^47 

for the sounds of the city below did not reach the lonely 
summit of the hill upon which Dr. Molinchard's hospital 
was situated. 

For an instant Kenee was strongly tempted to cry out, 
in the hope of attracting the attention of some passer-by, 
but she dared not. 

An almost superstitious fear smothered the sound in her 
throat, and paralyzed her movements; and it seemed to her 
that these massive walls were closing in around her, bury- 
ing her in a living grave. 

With tottering steps, she finally succeeded in making 
her way back into the house. All the blood in her body 
seemed to have suddenly mounted to her head, and she was 
seized with an intolerable thirst, so staggering to the table, . 
she poured out a glass of water, and emptied it at a single 
draught. 

Almost instantly she experienced a most peculiar sensa- 
tion. 

The water was very cold, and as she drank it, her blood, 
too, seemed to turn cold in her veins, and she could hardly 
summon up strength to make her way into the parlor and 
throw herself upon the sofa. 

To the fever that had burned in her veins a few moments 
before had succeeded a frightful torpor. 

Her head drooped upon her breast, and her eyes would 
close in spite of all her efforts to keep them open. At the 
same time, a thousand strange fancies flitted through her 
brain. 

She fancied she could see the curtains in the little parlor 
wave to and fro, and that shadowy forms were gliding about 
the room. 

Occasionally a sudden cracking in the furniture, or in 
the wood-work, made her start violently; then she heard 
nothing save the monotonous ticking of the clock upon the 
mantel. 

Through the profound apathy that was gradually stealing 



248 THE RED BAND. 

over her, one terrible thought finally succeeded in forcing 
its way. 

She recollected that there are such things as powerful 
narcotics, and passing her hand over her burning forehead, 
she attempted to rise, but fell back heavily and with one 
long-drawn sigh, the last remnant of Eenee de Saint Sen- 
der's consciousness departed. 



CHAPTEE XL 

Late in the afternoon of the same day on which Eenee 
de Saint Senier fell into that strange, deep slumber, J. B. 
Frapillon might have been seen majestically ascending the 
dirty staircase that led up to the editorial rooms of the 
" Serpenteau." 

Two or three clerks in the outer office rose respectfully 
on his entrance, and the alacrity of the movement was 
conclusive proof of the powerful influence the diplomatist 
of the Eue Cadet wielded in the establishment. 

Frapillon walked straight through this outer office, like a 
man who has no time to lose, and pushed open one of the 
swinging-doors leading into the next room. 

There he found himself in the presence of an old ac- 
quaintance, for, seated in an arm-chair, behind a large ta- 
ble, was M. Antoine Pilevert. 

That worthy still bore upon his bearded face unmistaka- 
ble traces of his mishap of the evening before. One eye 
was entirely concealed by the swelling produced by a heavy 
blow of an opponent's fist, and the bruises that disfigured 
his cheeks made him look not unlike the tattooed savages 
exhibited at country fairs. 

His countenance and his attitude were both indicative of 
the profoundest melancholy, though a glance at the table 
in front of him showed that he was already endeavoring to 
console himself for his defeat, for upon it stood a number of 
empty bottles and an imposing array of pipes of divers kinds. 



THE RED BAND. 249 

On seeing Frapillon the acrobat hung his head and ut- 
tered a groan of contrition; and though the new-comer's 
mind was engrossed by several very weighty matters, he 
could not help laughing at the poor wretch's crest-fallen air. 

" Well, how did you finish up the evening?" Frapillon 
inquired, with a smile. 

"You must know tolerably well, I should think," an- 
swered Pilevert, sulkily. 

" Really I do not. I left you in our friend Taupier's 
charge, and I suppose he got you safely into port?" 

" He's a nice fellow, that hunchback! He pitched me into 
the gutter, and was the whole cause of my having to spend 
the night at the station-house. I've had enough of him." 

" Indeed? I shall never forgive myself for having left 
you so unceremoniously, my dear Monsieur Pilevert. But 
tell me, how did you get out of the scrape?" 

" Your hunchback is such a hard-looking customer that 
the officer thought strongly of sending us both to jail, and 
I'm almost sure he would have done it if Monsieur Valnoir 
had not interfered in our behalf. " 

" 'Well, I'm glad to see you out again, safe and sound," 
remarked Frapillon, who had learned all he wished to know. 

" Safe and sound, with a black eye! It seems to me that 
I've got a lead hat on my head, and a wooden throat this 
morning." 

"Oh! you'll soon get over that, my friend, you'll soon 
get over that. But I must leave you now, for I expect 
Monsieur Valnoir is waiting for me." 

" Yes; they're all in there, and they've been inquiring 
for you." 

Frapillon quietly opened the door and stepped into the 
next room. This was usually reserved for the exclusive use 
of Valnoir, who, as editor-in-chief, enjoyed the privilege 
of isolating himself completely when the fancy seized him, 
so the visitor was not a little surprised to find his friend the 
center of quite a little group. 



250 



THE RED BAUD. 



To the right of his arm-chair sat Taupier, and on the 
left sat Mile, de Charmiere, like two associate judges, while 
behind them towered the tall form of Alcindor, and they 
all wore a rather solemn air that instantly attracted the at- 
tention of Frapillon, for he was not accustomed to see any 
of these persons in a serious mood. 

Requested in a note from Yalnoir to drop into the office 
of the " Serpenteau " about three o'clock that afternoon, 
he had expected to be greeted with jests and shouts of 
laughter, but a single glance at the party convinced him 
that a storm was brewing, and he governed himself ac- 
cordingly. 

He began by shaking hands with the three gentlemen, 
and gallantly kissing the tips of Mile, de Charmiere's fin- 
gers; then seating himself astride a chair, and leaning both 
elbows on the desk, he glanced up at Valnoir, and asked: 

" Well, my dear fellow, what progress have we made 
since last Saturday?" 

" There has been an increase of about thirty- five hun- 
dred in our circulation, " said the editor-in-chief, coldly. 

' 'Bravo ! That shows how thoroughly the public appreciate 
articles of sterling merit. Your last article on the regular 
army was worth its weight in diamonds. Five or six more 
like it and the circulation of the paper will be doubled/' 

" To say nothing of the feuilleton I began day before 
yesterday," remarked Taupier. "The title alone is good 
for twenty thousand additional subscribers." 

" And my series of articles in which I explain the doc- 
trine of fusionism will increase the sale at least thirty thou- 
sand more," remarked Alcindor, gravely, 

" Thirty thousand and twenty thousand make fifty 
thousand," remarked Frapillon, with the utmost serious- 
ness., " This, added to the number of copies now sold, 
will make a circulation of at least one hundred thousand. 
If the siege lasts three months longer we shall all be mill- 



ionaires." 



THK KiiD LAKD. 251 

Valnoir, who was the more conscious of the covert irony 
of this remark from the fact that he knew the exact value 
of these gentlemen's lucubrations, lost no time in diverting 
the conversation into another channel. 

" My dear fellow," he remarked, with an air of pretend- 
ed carelessness, " I asked you to drop in so we might be 
able to talk over some matters in which we are all quite as 
much interested as in the circulation of the ' Serpenteau. ' " 

" I can guess, I think. You are anxious to hear how 
the Saint Senier affair is progressing, I suppose" 

Valnoir nodded. 

" Very well, but Taupier can tell you all about the latest 
developments just as well as I can." 

"I?" exclaimed the hunchback. "Why, I know noth- 
ing about what has occurred since you managed to give me 
the slip last evening. ' ' 

" Nor am I able to give you any further information on 
the subject, for there have been no new developments since 
the arrest of the servant who, thanks to my exertions, has 
been safely lodged in prison for an indefinite period. " 

" But how about the young lady you started in pursuit of 
when you left me?" demanded the hunchback. 

" I lost sight of her, and it was impossible for me to find 
her again," answered Frapillon, with unblushing effrontery. 
Eose, Valnoir, and Taupier all exchanged glances, whose 
meaning was apparent to the shrewd man of affairs. 

It was very evident that they suspected him of acting on 
his own account, and these suspicions were, of course, the 
result of certain insinuations on the part of the hunch- 
back. 

" It is very fortunate that I lost no time," he thought. 

Then he added, aloud: 

" I don't see why you should feel any uneasiness. The 
worst part of the job is accomplished, as all the men are 
safely out of the way, and it seems to me that you haven't 
much to fear from two lone women. " 



252 THE BED BAND. 

" Women are more dangerous than men," remarked 
Mile, de Charmiere. 

" I believe you are right/' remarked Frapillon, with an 
equivocal smile. 

" Besides, this is not the matter in which we are most 
deeply interested to-day," interrupted Valnoir. 

" What is it, then?" 

" I have been requested to speak to you by several mem- 
bers of our society." 

"Do you mean the 'Society of the Moon with the Teeth? ' " 

"Precisely." 

" Very well. What is it you would like to know?" in- 
quired Frapillon, with unruffled calmness. 

There was a moment's silence; then, encouraged by a 
glance from his lady-love, Valnoir replied: 

" Well, you see, my dear fellow, the society has been in 
existence about three months. There is a very large num- 
ber of members, and this number is constantly increasing, 
consequently, small as is the weekly assessment levied upon 
each member, the aggregate must mount up to a very con- 
siderable figure." 

"Very considerable," interrupted Frapillon, in a frigid 
tone. 

" The amount of which we know only approximately," 
continued Valnoir, rather disconcerted by this coolness. 
" You have been the sole receiver of these funds, and you 
alone are responsible for them, as you have had undisputed 
control of them from the first." 

" All this is perfectly true. What are you driving at?" 

" Ah, well, we all know that profound secrecy is one of 
the fundamental principles of our society, still — " 

"Well?" asked Frapillon, calmly adjusting his spec- 
tacles. 

" Well, we think that it would be not only eminently 
proper, but desirable to issue occasional statements of our 
financial condition and — " 



THE RED BAND. 253 

" In short, you would like me to produce the accounts 
of the society. " 

" I need not tell you that we do not feel the slightest 
doubt of your integrity, and that we have implicit confi- 
dence in you," Valnoir hastened to add. 

" It seems so, certainly." 

" Besides, we are not the persons who ask this informa- 
tion." 

"Indeed?'' exclaimed Frapillon, with a rather incred- 
ulous air. 

" No, but I have received letters from five or six parties, 
who express a desire to become enlightened on the subject, 
and being unable to furnish the desired information myself, 
I am obliged to apply to you." 

" Who are these curious persons, if I may ask?" 

" Why, members of the society, of course; and I think I 
had better tell you that the subject will probably be brought 
up for discussion at our next meeting. " 

" And you tell me so I may be prepared for it. This is 
certainly very kind in you. " 

" It seems only fair, and I certainly hope you will not 
take offense." 

" On the contrary, I am greatly obliged to you for giving 
me an opportunity I have long desired." 

"I don't understand. Explain more clearly, if you please. " 

"It is hardly worth while now. I will follow your ad- 
vice and reserve my explanation for our next meeting. " 

Valnoir's friends, and particularly Mile, de Charmiere, 
seemed to be listening to this conversation with the liveliest 
interest, and it was very evident that this little scene had 
been planned in advance. Frapillon knew Valnoir's care- 
less and unsuspicious nature too well to attribute this attack 
to him, but he was unable to decide whether it was Taupier 
or the fair Rose who had instigated it. 

Both of them seemed quite capable of this shabby trick, 
and he mentally resolved to make them sorry for it. 



254 THE RED BAKU. 

" Suppose you will allow me to see the letters you men- 
tioned just now," he remarked to Valnoir, with admirably 
feigned indifference. 

" I — I hardly know what I have done with them/' stam- 
mered the editor-in-chief, thoroughly disconcerted. 

"All right, all right! I understand perfectly," re- 
sponded Frapillon. You are afraid of compromising your 
fellow members.'" 

Valnoir, whose embarrassment was increasing, tried in 
vain to find a response. 

An incident for which all present were utterly unprepared 
extricated him from his dilemma. 

The souud of angry voices was suddenly heard in the 
adjoining room; and as they rose higher and higher it soon 
became impossible to mistake the cause of disturbance. 
Pilevert was the only person in the house capable of carry- 
ing on a conversation in such a tone, and however anxious 
Valnoir might be to settle the question now under discus- 
sion in his office, he could not remain indifferent to the dis- 
putes of his subordinates. 

Pilevert had been selected by the prudent Taupier to 
listen to all complaints, and up to the present time he had 
performed his task to the satisfaction of all. His formida- 
ble aspect usually calmed the wrath of such visitors as 
presented themselves with grievances, and if they proved 
too troublesome the ex-professor of fencing offered them the 
choice of weapons. 

Since he had entered upon his functions he had en- 
countered no one who seemed inclined to carry things with 
a very high hand, and this fact had contributed very con- 
siderably to the development of his coarseness and inso- 
lence, so much so, indeed, that the editor-in-chief of the 
" Serpenteau " was beginning to think that his body-guard 
defended him too energetically, and that it would be neces- 
sary to call him to order. 

This time the wrath of the responsible editor outsido 



THE RED BAND. 255 

seemed so frightfully violent that Valnoir started up as if 
with the intention of going himself to see what was the 
matter, but a glance from Mile, de Charmiere reminded 
him that prudence is one of the first duties of a politician. 
He was about to turn to Taupier and request him to settle 
a dispute whose cause he suspected, for his articles had 
been so virulent for several days past, and had hit so hard 
right and left, that he had reason to anticipate numerous 
quarrels; but Prapillon, who had his reasons for desiring 
to put an end to this interview in which his associates so 
plainly evinced their intention of hauling him over the 
coals, eagerly availed himself of this opportunity to make 
his escape. 

" I think I had better go and quiet our body-guard down 
a little,"" he remarked, stepping to the door. 

" Remember that Valnoir can not see any one." 

The remark of the lovely Eose was accompanied by this 
course injunction from Taupier: 

'* Be quick about it, then, and come right back. We 
are not done with you yet. " 

" Give me time to add a little water to Master Pile vert's 
wine, and I am at your service/' replied Frapillon. 

When he had carefully closed the door that protected 
Valnoir's sanctum from |>rofane intrusion, Frapillon found 
himself in the presence of an intensely excited group. 

Pilevert, intrenched behind the table, which he seemed 
inclined to use as a sort of barricade, had planted himself 
firmly upon his short legs, and was evidently preparing for 
a fight. 

The two strangers in front of him appeared no less ex- 
asperated. One, who was very young, and clad in the 
uniform of a captain of infantry, was grasping the hilt of 
his sword with one hand, and twirling his musrache with 
the other, all the while casting furious glances at Pilevert. 

The other, who was considerably older, but equally angry, 
did not belong to tke army; but he was very pale and held 



256 THE RED BAND. 

a crumpled copy of the " Serpenteau " in his clinched 
hand. 

The cause of the disturbance was too apparent to require 
any explanation; nevertheless, Frapillon, assuming the most 
innocent air imaginable, inquired with great solicitude: 

" What is the matter, gentlemen?" 

Though the question was addressed more particularly to 
the gentleman in citizen's clothing it was the young officer 
who took it upon himself to reply. 

" This scoundrel seems inclined to be insolent, and I 
propose to give him a lesson in good manners." 

" Come on, you young peacock, come on!" roared Pile- 
vert, rubbing his hands excitedly. 

" Gentlemen, gentlemen, calm yourselves, and explain, 
I beg of you," exclaimed Frapillon, magnanimously throw- 
ing himself between the two furious men. 

Then, touching the acrobat on the shoulder, he added: 

" Do me the favor to keep quiet for a moment, my dear 
Pilevert. You are too hasty. " 

These few words sufficed to moderate the wrath of the 
irascible Antoine, who seemed to stand in wholesome awe 
of the suave cashier. 

" You may think it very Qne to be called a clown and a 
blackguard, but I don't," growled the acrobat, assuming a 
less aggressive attitude, however. 

" I can hardly believe that these gentlemen would insult 
you without cause," said Frapillon, gently, " and I should 
therefore like to know — " 

" I will tell you what has passed, sir," said the elder of 
the two visitors, " and I trust that you will put an end to 
this disgraceful scene by making the just reparation we de- 
mand. You are connected with the editorial staff of this 
paper, I suppose?" 

"lam one of its founders," replied Frapillon, eva- 
sively. 

" Then you will not be surprised to learn that several 



THE RED BAND. 2o'i 

articles which have recently appeared in your journal have 
deeply wounded and incensed all who have the honor to 
belong to the French army, and that an officer now conies 
to demand satisfaction in the name of all his comrades. " 

' ; This sensibility is highly creditable to him, certainly, 
still—" 

'"'Allow me to finish, if you please. My friend here, 
who is a captain in one of the regiments you insult every 
day, has requested me to act as his second, and I have con- 
sented to do so all the more willingly from the fact that 
my acquaintance with your editor-in-chief, Monsieur Val- 
noir, is one of no recent date."' 

"Ah!" exclaimed Frapillon, whose attention was in- 
stantly attracted by this last remark. 

•' So it is with Monsieur Valnoir alone that we had busi- 
ness, and when we were received here by this — by this man, 
who had the impudence to pretend that he was the writer 
of the offensive articles in question, you can hardly wonder, 
I think, that our patience deserted us. " 

" Yes, it is going a little too far, I think," exclaimed 
the officer, ' ' when a man insults people, and then employs 
common prize-fighters to represent him on the field of 
honor." 

'"' Gentlemen, I assure you that there is some deplorable 
mistake about all this. My friend Valnoir is a man of 
honor, and he would not thrink from a duel. " 

" I know that," replied the civilian, in a tone that fur- 
nushed Frapillon with abundant food' for reflection. 

For several minutes he had been wondering if this was 
simply the result of some of the ' ' Serpenteau's " venomous 
attacks, or whether it was in some way connected with the 
Saint Senier affair. In the latter case he was personally 
interested in the matter, and it behooved him to ascertain 
the truth, if possible. 

" Monsieur Valnoir is not in just now, gentlemen," he 
began; " but if you will be kind enough to leave your cards 



258 THE RED BAND. 

I will hand them to him on his return, and explain the ob- 
ject of your visit. " 

The two strangers exchanged glances, then the elder of 
the two said, curtly: 

" That is not necessary. We must see Monsieur Valnoir 
in person, and I wish you would say to him that we will 
call again at the same hour to-morrow. " 

" And I expect to find him next time/' added the officer, 
with an emphasis that convinced Frapillon that he would 
be held accountable for the delivery of the message. 

" You may rest assured that I shall not forget, gentle- 
men," stammered the cashier, not a little disconcerted to 
see the visitors turn their backs on him without any expla- 
nation whatever. 

They had left the room before Frapillon recovered from 
his dismay, but he was aroused from his fit of abstraction 
by the voice of Pilevert saying: 

" Good riddance! I hope I may never have the pleasure 
of seeing either of you again. " 

The time had come for the wily diplomatist of the Eue 
Cadet to choose between the legion of wires he had been 
manipulating for some time. 

It took him only a moment to decide. 

"What do you say, my dear Pilevert, to a nice dinner 
at Baratte's, where we can be sure of a good bottle of wine, 
as well as a good dinner." 

" That would suit me to a T," replied the acrobat, " for 
my throat is as dry as tinder." 

" Let us be off, then, and at once," said Frapillon, for 
he had no desire to re-enter the council chamber over which 
his friend Valnoir was presiding. 



THE RED BAND. 



CHAPTEK XII. 

One cold, dark December night— the same on which the 
Saint Senier ladies left the cottage — a man and a woman 
were hastening along a narrow path in the forest of Saint 
Germain. 

The man was clad in the garb of a common peddler, 
with a pack on his back, and a staff in his hand; and the 
woman seemed to be acting as an assistant, for she carried 
her part of the merchandise in a long bag suspended from 
her waist; still, if a person had observed the faces and bear- 
ing of these nocturnal travelers closely, he might have had 
some doubts concerning their real condition in life. 

In spite of his burden, his blue blouse, corduroy trousers, 
and clumsy hobnailed shoes, the man's gait was not that 
of a peddler. He walked with the firm measured tread of 
a soldier, and not with the dragging step of a colporteur 
who has more than time to reach his destination before the 
next fair opens. His face was even less in harmony with 
his costume and apparent calling, for his dark and rather 
emaciated countenance' was characterized by a delicacy and 
firmness of outline that would have led one to suppose him 
something better than a common peddler. But for the en- 
tire absence of beard and mustache, it was the face of a 
soldier, and even of an officer. 

The woman, though she wore a coarse linsey skirt and 
sabots, looked as unlike a peasant as he did. Her lithe 
form was concealed by a large, striped cloak, and her lux- 
uriant black hair was hidden by a red handkerchief, knotted 
about her head in the Creole fashion, but the graceful lines 



260 THE RED BAND. 

of her figure were apparent as she walked, and her eyes 
were too brilliant, her complexion too fair, and her profile 
too delicate and pure, to escape the notice of a keen ob- 
server. 

The two travelers walked swiftly on, without exchanging 
a word, and, strange to say, the woman seemed to be act- 
ing as guide for her companion. 

She led the way, pausing from time to time, as if to as- 
certain whether or not she was following the right course, 
then hastening on again. The man followed in silence, and 
these short halts were silent ones — a gesture of the hand, a 
nod of the head before resuming their journey — these were 
all that passed between them; and, judging from the pre- 
caution they were taking, and their persistent silence, the 
two travelers must have realized the necessity of maintain- 
ing the most profound secrecy; and, in fact, the forest was 
so little frequented at that time, especially during the night, 
that their mere presence in such a place, and at such an 
hour, made them appear highly suspicious characters. 

The Prussians, who had been occupying Saint Germain 
for more than three months, had not failed to take their 
usual precautions. From the very beginning of their oc- 
cupation of the place, the magnificent trees that bordered 
the main avenue had been ruthlessly destroyed to construct 
intrenchments and obstruct the roads. 

After the investiture of the capital was completed, the 
prudent enemy did not confine themselves to these prepara- 
tions for defense; patrols traversed the forest in every di- 
rection, to say nothing of the outposts which had been 
placed there with that accurate knowledge of the topogra- 
phy of the country which the Prussians had shown from the 
very beginning of the war. 

But toward the close of the siege, their surveillance, 
though as active as ever at the front, was considerably re- 
laxed in the rear. 

Three months earlier, these travelers would have been 



THE RED BAND. 261 

almost sure to fall into an ambuscade before they had vent- 
ured a hundred yards into the forest, and their journey 
would have been interrupted so quickly that they probably 
would not have undertaken it. But in this less critical 
period of the siege they had a fair chance of succeeding 
in their undertaking if they exercised a tolerable amount of 
caution, and knew their way, especially as the weather was 
favorable to such an expedition, for the ground was covered 
with a light snow that deadened the sound of their foot- 
steps, and the wind was blowing a gale. 

On such a night it was not likely that any sentinel would 
stand motionless at his post, and the stamping which he 
would be obliged to keep up in order to escape freezing 
would be heard some distance. 

After pursuing their way without accident for some time, 
the peddler and his companion reached a part of the forest 
where the ground became more and more uneven, and they 
were obliged to slacken their pace. 

The tall branches of the giant trees formed a dome over 
the path, and intercepted the dim light that fell from the 
clouded sky, and "in this obscurity the gnarled roots that 
obstructed the narrow path assumed all sorts of grotesque 
shapes. Still, far from being daunted by these difficulties, 
the fair guide seemed to advance with a no less confident 
tread. Indeed, judging by her manner, she was well ac- 
quainted with this locality, for she paused occasionally to 
examine a stump or a large rock, as if seeking some famil- 
iar landmark. 

Her companion followed her closely, regulating his pace 
by hers, and each time she paused she glanced over her 
shoulder, and, by a hasty gesture, gave the man to under- 
stand that she knew the way, whereupon he accepted the 
tacit invitation addressed to him, and followed her without 
a word. 

In proportion as they advanced, the travelers redoubled 
their prudence and attention. Indeed, there was even a 



262 THE BED BAND. 

moment when the woman stopped short, and stood motion- 
less in the middle of the path. This wag at the foot of a 
stony ascent bordered on each side by deep ditches, a spot 
so peculiar in its appearance that once seen it was not like- 
ly to be forgotten. 

The guide evidently recognized this spot where it would 
be difficult for a vehicle of any sort to pass without over- 
turning, and possibly she wished to call attention to some 
accident of this kind, for she began to gesticulate with great 
animation, pointing to one of the ditches and leaning over 
upon one side, as if to imitate a falling vehicle. 

The man nodded as if to show that he understood, but 
still uttered never a word. 

After this halt, the woman evinced no further hesitation, 
but hastened on with a firm, even step, and it was evident 
that she considered herself nearly at her journey's end. 

After a rapid walk of about ten minutes, the pair reached 
a small open space in the center of which stood a guide- 
post, whose inscription, of course, could not be seen in the 
darkness. 

The woman, however, called her companion's attention 
to the guide-post, and this time he remarked, very distinct- 

" Yes; this is the Etoile du Chene Capitaine, unquestion- 
ably. " 

Either she did not hear him, or she did not deem it ad- 
visable to reply, for she again hastened on in silence. 

About a hundred yards further on, near the edge of a 
broad road, was a clearing whose center was marked by a 
colossal tree. 

The woman paused and pointed to it. 

Yes; there it is!" said the man, in a smothered voice. 

The clearing in front of which the two travelers had just 
paused was the same in which Commander de Saint Senier 
had fallen in an unfairly conducted duel three months be- 
fore, though this portion of the forest had undergone a 



THE RED BAND. 263 

marked change since that time, and the woman who point- 
ed out this giant of the forest to her companion must cer- 
tainly have been hero before,- and had good reasons for re- 
turning to the spot. 

The man, on the contrary, seemed to find himself in 
these wilds for the first time, though the exclamation that 
had just escaped Mm indicated that the sight of this desert- 
ed spot awakened many painful recollections. 

All this proved beyond a doubt that the two travelers 
were not what they appeared to be. 

In fact, the pretended peddler was Eoger de Saint Senier; 
his companion was no other than Regina, aud the night 
was the first night of a flight fraught with a thousand 
dangers. 

Duty alone could have drawn them to this part of the 
forest, for the route they were following did not take them 
any further from the Prussian lines, and when morning 
dawned they were likely to find themselves in a position of 
the greatest peril; whereas, they might have taken advan- 
tage of the long December night to make their way through 
the heavily wooded district that extends toward the depart- 
ments of Lower Normandy. 

After a moment of reflection and careful scrutiny, the 
young girl seemed to have discovered what she was seeking, 
for she touched her companion lightly on the arm, and 
motioned him to follow her; then, walking to a spot five or 
six yards to the right of the big oak, she stamped upon the 
ground and pointed to one particular spot, clearly express- 
ing by this pantomime a desire that her companion in- 
stantly understood. 

Removing his pack from his back, he set it down under 
a tree and began to open it. Though it was not quite so 
dark since they had left the dense forest, it was very diffi- 
cult to detect any difference in the appearance of the sur- 
face of the earth, covered as it was by a thin mantle of 
snow; still, by feeling it with the hands, one became con- 



*-2(J4 THE RED HAND. 

scious of certain inequalities of surface which seemed to fol- 
low a straight line, as if the layer of sod had not united 
entirely after being removed. There was no longer any 
chance for doubt. This was certainly the place where the 
earth had been disturbed by Valnoir and his accomplice, 
Taupier, the night before the duel, and here one must dig 
if one wished to discover the secret buried at the base of the 
tree; and it was evidently for that purpose that the two 
fugitives had come. 

Roger drew a small mattock from his pack, and, step- 
ping to Regina's side, began work with the utmost zeal. 
The first blow broke the crust of snow, and disclosing to 
view the ground it covered, confirmed the justice of Re- 
gina's statement, for the turf had evidently been cut with a 
spade and replaced. 

This certainly increased the zeal of Roger, who continued 
to dig vigorously. He was very strong, and his muscular 
arm plied the pick with so much force that quite an open- 
ing was soon made, in spite of the strong resistance offered 
by the frozen soil; but though he had plenty of strength 
and good-will, he was absolutely wanting in experience, 
and, consequently, labored under a great disadvantage; 
and in proportion as the depth of the hole increased, the 
work became more laborious. 

Regina aided him to the best of her ability, scooping the 
dirt out and seizing the rough stones with her delicate 
hands, and throwing them out of the hole with surprising 
str-ength and skill; but in spite of their united efforts, Roger 
at the end of a half hour had dug only about a foot, and 
seemed greatly fatigued. The girl, noticing this fact, 
motioned him to rest a moment, and both seated themselves 
on the edge of the hole. 

Roger looked around him with the abstracted gaze of a 
person absorbed in deep thought. Now and then the rus- 
tling of the dry leaves or the cracking of a branch made 
him start, and he turned hastily to see if anything was 



THE RED BAND. 265 

moving in the undergrowth; but as soon as he perceived 
that it was a false alarm, he again relapsed into a profound 
reverie. 

After resting about ten minutes he resumed work with 
such feverish eagerness that he soon very nearly reached 
the depth at which the object — whatever it was — must have 
been buried. 

Eegina ceased to assist him. She seemed to fear any 
contact with the object buried there. 

Soon an involuntary exclamation escaped Roger. His 
mattock had just struck some hard substance that emitted 
a dull, hollow sound. 

The young man was about to strike another blow, when 
Regina suddenly touched him on the shoulder. 

He paused, with arm uplifted, to glance around him. 

A light was gleaming through the trees to the left of 
them. 

The pick fell from Roger's hands. 

Tt would be difficult to imagine a more annoying contre- 
temps. 

The object buried there was concealed from him only by 
a thin layer of earth. Another moment, and it would be 
disclosed to view; but this moment was not at his disposal, 
for the light was rapidly approaching — disappearing one 
instant, only to reappear the next — conclusive proof that it 
was in the hands of some person who was walking through 
the forest. 

Roger perceived all this in the twinkling of an eye, and 
instantly decided that he was in the presence of the night 
patrol, and the forest guards, having long since taken their 
departure, the persons approaching must be Prussians — a 
fact that complicated the situation very considerably. 

To leave the spot without completing an undertaking for 
which the fugitives had risked their freedom, and perhaps 
their lives, was hard indeed! But, on the other hand, if 
they decided to remain, they would not only run a great 



266 THE RED BAND. 

risk of capture, but also of delivering up the secret to the 
German soldiers. 

Roger, though greatly perplexed, realized the necessity of 
immediate action, for he could already hear the dry 
branches crack under the heavy and monotonous tread of 
the approaching enemy, who were evidently making their 
way straight toward the clearing. 

The young officer turned to consult his companion in 
danger; but a single glance showed him that she had al- 
ready decided upon their course, for she was trampling 
down and leveling the freshly stirred earth with her tiny 
feet. 

" She is right!" thought Eoger. " We must fill up the 
hole as well as we can, so the Prussians will not notice it, 
and then we will hide in the underbrush until after they 
have taken their departure. " 

This was evidently the plan formed by Eegina, for she 
hastily caught up her long bag, and Eoger followed her ex- 
ample by shoiddering his pack. 

The young girl, resuming her duties as guide, crept 
stealthily toward a bunch of young chestnut-trees on the 
side of the clearing opposite that from which the Prussians 
were approaching, and Eoger followed her, still clutching 
the mattock which might serve as a weapon of defense in 
case of need. The refuge which Eegina had chosen was 
probably the same that had served her as a hiding-place on 
the morning of the duel, and it was well adapted for this 
purpose, for a dense growth of vines and briers formed an 
almost impenetrable net -work about the base of the trees. 

The advancing squad of Prussians, numbering seven or 
eight men, was already in sight. The bearer of the lantern, 
who was probably the corporal, walked at the head of his 
little band, and after pausing an instant to give a brief 
order, led them straight toward the big oak-tree. 

A feeling of profound consternation took possession of 
the hearts of both fugitives. The skill of the Prussian sol- 



THE RED BAND. ,367 

diers in discovering hidden treasures had become proverbial, 
and it seemed well-nigh impossible that the excavation 
Roger had just made would escape their keen eyes. 

At the command of the corporal, the guns were stacked, 
and the soldiers began to stamp their feet and beat their 
arms to warm themselves, while their leader laid down his 
musket and lantern, and proceeded to light an immense 
pipe. 

Was this to be a short halt, or were they going to en- 
camp here? 

This was soon decided beyond a doubt. 

One German began to collect a large pile of withered 
leaves and dry branches, another struck a light, and the 
remaining members of the squad dispersed to cut wood in 
the clearing while the corporal stood guard over the weap- 
ons. 

There was no longer any chance for doubt. The detach- 
ment was going into camp here for the rest of the night, 
and they seemed to have chosen the spot simply because the 
enormous tree furnished not only a shelter from the wind, 
but a back-log for their fire-place. Under [these circum- 
stances, the wisest course for the officer and the young girl 
to pursue was to remain in their hiding-place until the en- 
emy concluded to take their departure. Any attempt to 
escape would be imprudent in the extreme, for the Prus- 
sians were probably on the alert, and the slightest sound 
would set them on the fugitives' track; besides, if the ex- 
cavation should escape the notice of the soldiers, there was 
a possibility of resuming the work interrupted by their 
unexpected appearance upon the scene of action. 

Soger was soon aroused from these reflections by the un- 
pleasant proximity of a Prussian who had approached their 
hiding-place in pursuit of fuel. In fact, Roger not only 
heard and saw him, but smelled him, for the pungent odor 
of strong tobacco-smoke was wafted by the breeze through 
the tangled net-work of vines and briers; but the young 



268 THE RED BAND. 

officer soon saw the man making his way toward the big 
oak, where his comrades had already collected the mate- 
rial for a respectable camp-fire. 

Suddenly a bright light burst forth in the forest about 
twenty yards from the fugitives' hiding-place. 

" Fire!" muttered Eoger, in the utmost consternation. 

The Prussian, in lighting his pipe, must have dropped a 
burning match upon one of the little piles of dry leaves 
that strewed the ground, and from that the fire had spread 
to some of the rushes or tiny branches lying close by. 

The cold, freezing weather which had prevailed since the 
first of November, had expelled every particle of dampness 
from the wood, and it burned as freely as in midsummei\ 
Long tongues of flame shot up through the branches, and 
the north wind blew the smoke straight toward the neigh- 
boring thicket. 

The situation of Koger and his companion was becoming 
still more critical. They glanced at each other anxiously, 
and if they had been able to give utterance to their 
thoughts, it is more than probable that they would have 
asked each other if it was not advisable for them to flee, 
though such an attempt had become even more perilous 
from the fact that the light of the fire could hardly fail to 
attract the attention of the Prussians to this immediate 
neighborhood. 

Already they were beginning to laugh boisterously, and 
to utter exclamations of delight. To see a French forest 
burn was a most welcome diversion, and it was not at all 
likely that they would make any effort to extinguish the 
fire. On the contrary, there was great reason to fear that 
they would feel a desire to contemplate the pleasant sight 
more closely, and, in that case, the fugitives would certain- 
ly be discovered. 

Besides, the fire having made rapid progress for the past 
few moments, Eoger soon perceived that the place would 
be tenable only a short time. In fact, the heat and smoke 



THE RED BAND. 36!) 

were already becoming intolerable. The Prussians, on the 
contrary, had nothing to fear, as the clearing was too large, 
for the fire to reach the tree that stood in the middle 
of it 

Roger motioned Regina to hold herself in readiness to 
flee, if necessary, and set her the example by shouldering 
his pack. The girl rose, and, without showing the slight- 
est sign of fear, picked up her bag, and calmly awaited the 
moment that was to decide their fate. 

The light from the fire streamed full upon the group of 
Prussians. They had ceased to occupy themselves with 
preparations for their bivouac, probably thinking that their 
fire would cut but a sorry figure beside tbe colossal confla- 
gration, and now stood leaning tranquilly against the big 
oak, enjoying the sight of this destruction, and pointing 
out the progress of the flames to one another. 

One feature of the disaster seemed to engross their atten- 
tion particularly. In the midst of the burning underbrush 
stood a solitary birch-tree whose smooth white bark gave it 
very much the appearance of a gigantic wax-candle. They 
were all watching the tongues of flame as they licked this 
bark, and made their way up to the tall branches, trans- 
forming them into sparkling girandoles, and each branch, 
as it fell into the fiery furnace below, emitted a shower of 
sparks that called forth exclamations of delight from the 
lookers-on. 

Roger, too, watched the effect of the fire upon the birch 
as attentively as the Prussians, but with very different 
emotions, for the tree, thus undermined at its base, must 
soon fall, and the copse that protected them not being out- 
side the radius of its fall, a new and grave danger threat- 
ened the fugitives. 

If the tree fell toward them, they were almost sure to be 
crushed beneath the weight of the incandescent mass; and 
even if they escaped this peril, the burning tree could hard- 
ly fail to set fire to the brush around them. 



270 THE BED BAND. 

Already ifc was tottering upon its base, and one could 
pretty nearly calculate the minutes that would elapse before 
the catastrophe. 

Eoger did not fear for himself. "When he came to help 
defend Paris with his company, he had resigned himself to 
the sacrifice of his life, and from the very beginning of the 
siege he had passed through so many imminent dangers 
that he had learned to regard death with indifference; but 
he could not bear the thought of seeing the young girl who 
had so generously come to his assistance perish with him. 
If he could have insured Regina's safety by surrendering 
himself to the Prussians, Roger would not have hesitated; 
but events had united their destinies so closely that they 
were doomed to perish together unless God came to the re- 
lief of both. 

Besides, the heroic girl gave no signs of fear, but gazed 
calmly at her companion; and there was such firmness and 
composure in her manner that the young officer almost re- 
proached himself for his weakness. 

As he was about to make a well-nigh impossible attempt 
to escape he heard three whistles repeated at regular inter- 
vals, and fancied he heard at the same time a sound whose 
nature no soldier could mistake. 

It was the measured tramp, tramp of advancing troops. 
The explanation instantly occurred to Roger. 
The light of the fire had been noticed by the guards 
stationed in the forest, and a large detachment had been 
dispatched in hot haste to the scene of the conflagration, 
and the whistle had been sounded by the corporal who felt 
obliged to give notice of his presence in the clearing. 

The last hope of the fugitives faded. The detachment 
that was approaching would unquestionably join the Prus- 
sians encamped under the big oak, and having joined them, 
they would all unite to hew down the surrounding trees, 
and in this way extinguish the fire, in which case their 
hiding-place would be surrounded. 



THE BED UAND. 271 

Roger pressed his companion's arm, and pointed to the 
clearing, as if to say: 

" Will you brave the bullets and flee in this direction?" 

Regina nodded as if to signify to her companion that she 
was ready. 

There was not a second to lose, and Roger took the girl's 
hand with the intention of rushing with her from their 
hiding-place, but just then a sharp crackling resounded 
behind him, and made him turn. 

A brand transported by the wind had just set fire to the 
thicket behind them, but very fortunately there were only 
a few rushes and briers at the spot where the blazing brand 
had fallen. 

Roger stifled an exclamation of joy, for this fire might 
open a way of escape by destroying the net-work of briers 
and vines that imprisoned them. Still, it would take time 
to accomplish this, and the birch might fall at any mo- 
ment. The lives of two human beings depended upon, the 
strength of a tree that had been burning nearly an hour. 

While Roger was watching the progress of the devouring 
element with intense anxiety, the loud tramp, tramp of 
approaching soldiery warned him that the Prussians were 
about to appear. 

Twenty seconds passed, perhaps; then there came a 
frightful cracking sound, the precursor of the fall, and the 
tree began to lean slowly to one side. 

At the same instant the head of the Prussian column 
appeared on the opposite side of the clearing. There were 
probably about one hundred men, led by an officer, and 
they announced their arrival by a loud hurrah. 

It was fortunate that the fugitives in the thicket did not 
find their escape cut off by the enemy, but their situation 
was by no means encouraging, especially as the fire illu- 
mined the surrounding forest so brilliantly that every ob- 
ject was as plainly visible as at midday. 
f Roger saw the officer in command of the detachment 



2T^ THE RED BAND. 

that had just come up gesticulate excitedly as he issued an 
order, and saw the soldiers form into platoons, hatchet in 
hand. Evidently they were only awaiting further orders to 
begin the work of extinguishing the fire. 

"Are you ready?" whispered Roger, forgetting in his 
anxiety that Eegina could not hear him. 

But his gesture was so significant that the young girl 
took a step forward. 

" Forward!" cried the Prussian officer. 

This was the moment for which Eoger had been waiting. 

Placing the girl behind him, so as to shelter her with his 
own body, he bowed his head upon his breast, and dashed 
through the flames. 

The space to be traversed was slight, but tke peril was 
great, for it was necessary to run over live coals and part 
the blazing branches that impeded their progress. The un- 
dertaking would have seemed utterly impracticable under 
ordinary circumstances, but imminent danger generally in- 
creases one's courage. 

Eoger, who was naturally clever and agile, successfully 
accomplished the double feat of traversing the fiery furnace 
and protecting his companion. He reached a neighboring 
path with no other accident than a slight burn on his left 
hand, and on turning he saw Eegina beside him, safe and 
sound. 

At the very instant he set foot upon a spot which the 
flames had not yet reached the birch-tree fell with a fright- 
ful crash, covering with its burning branches the very place 
the fugitives had just left. Two dangers — that of fire and 
discovery by the enemy had been avoided at the same time. 

But if they paused even long enough to take breath they 
ran a great risk of losing the fruit of their late venture, so 
the lieutenant seized Eegina's hand and dragged her into 
the woods that bordered the path. 

They had hardly proceeded ten yards, however, when 
three soldiers suddenly appeared on their right. The young 



THE RED BAND. 273 

girl was the first to discover them, and hastily springing to 
one side, she began to run with all her might in the opposite 
direction. 

Roger executed the same maneuver with great presence 
of mind and agility, but he was too late. 

Quick as was the movement, the Prussians were so near 
and the woods so brightly lighted by the fire, that the fugi- 
tives were perceived. 

" Halt!" cried the Prussians. 

They did not wait to see if the order would be obeyed, 
however. On the contrary, then and there began a frantic 
chase in which the soldiers had every advantage. 

Still, neither Regina nor Roger lost courage. They had 
understood each other at a glance, and they now ran along, 
side by side, turning occasionally to see if the number of 
pursuers had increased. 

If the rest of the hostile band took part in the pursuit it 
was all over with the fugitives; if not there was a slight 
chance of their making their escape. 

After a few moments, Roger became convinced that the 
rest of the detachment was engaged in extinguishing the 
fire, and not in pursuing them, while the three soldiers that 
an unlucky chance had set upon their track had no guns, 
and consequently were unable to send a bullet after them. 

This was encouraging, and the lieutenant was already 
thinking that in case of a hand-to-hand struggle his mat- 
tock, if energetically wielded, might prove of no little serv- 
ice to him, though it was scarcely the weapon one would 
have selected to parry the blows of three German axes. 

Unfortunately, the forest in which this trial of speed 
took place was becoming much less dense, and this was a 
decided disadvantage to the fugitives. Much more agile in 
their movements than their pursuers, they took advantage 
of every natural obstacle, but in an open country it would 
be more difficult to elude the enemy. Already the Prus- 
sians had stumbled over a stone or a root more thau once, 



274 THE BED BAND. 

and each time this mishap had enabled the fugitives to in- 
crease the distance between them and their pursuers. 

Kegina did not appear at all fatigued, and Koger, notic- 
ing the fact, almost envied her her powers of endurance, 
for he felt that he could not hold out much longer him- 
self. 

Soon they reached a clump of ash-trees that marked the 
edge of the wood. Beyond stretched a clearing much more 
extensive than that of the giant oak, and still further on 
a broad road opened in the forest. 

In the center of this clearing was a small pond, and to- 
ward this the girl unhesitatingly darted, first touching the 
arm of her companion as if to warn him to be on his 
guard. At that moment the Prussians were not more than 
twenty yards behind them, and the fugitives could hear 
them inciting one another to greater exertions by guttural 
exclamations. 

The little ice-covered pond was traversed in the twink- 
ling of an eye, and less than a moment afterward Roger 
had the unspeakable satisfaction of hearing a significant 
cracking sound behind him, followed by a volley of excited 
oaths. The three Prussians had reached the edge of the 
pond at the same moment, and rushing upon it simultane- 
ously, their heavy boots had broken the thin coating of ice 
that covered the slimy water, and the fugitives, turning, 
saw them immersed nearly to their waists, and making all 
sorts of frantic efforts to regain their footing. 

Although the sight was a most agreeable one, Eoger did 
not stop to enjoy it, but rushed on with redoubled swift- 
ness across the rest of the clearing with his companion; 
and when they reached the edge of the wood again their 
enemies were still floundering in the mire into which the 
young girPs ruse had led them. 

The road that now opened before the fugitives was such 
a broad one that they felt sure it led to some city or at 
least to a village. It was consequently to be avoided, and 



THE KED BAND. 275 

Regina, who seemed to know the country perfectly, darted 
into a side path. After a few moments of rapid walking 
they reached a large rock, behind which rose the thatched 
roof of a tiny hut, to which Eegina called her companion's 
attention, and Roger, being almost ready to drop with 
fatigue, instantly decided to avail himself of the shelter 
thus providentially provided. 

" Who's that?" cried a man's voice, just as the fugitives 
were about to cross the threshold. 

Roger started back, dragging Regina with him. The 
hut was evidently occupied, and the fact was certainly a 
most unfortunate one, for, situated as the young officer was, 
every meeting was attended with danger, and every stranger 
must be regarded as an enemy. 

With a rapid movement he freed himself of his pack, 
and even had the presence of mind to throw it down in 
front of him, so it might serve as a stumbling-block to the 
enemy, then, raising his pick, stood ready to strike. 

Regina seemed to understand their peril, and leaving 
her companion perfect freedom of movement she turned as 
if to face the danger that would threaten them in the rear 
in case the Prussians had succeeded in tracking them. 

The night was dark, and the gloom was augmented by 
the large trees whose branches formed a sort of dome over 
the hut, so the occupant of this rustic abode was invisible. 
As yet the only evidence of his presence had been that 
gruff "Who's that?" and Roger asked himself anxiously 
who it could be. 

Was it merely some wood-cutter who had sought here a 
refuge from the cold, or a spy? 

Either conjecture was equally plausible. One thing, 
however, was certain, the individual thus surprised had 
spoken in French, and without the slightest accent, so 
Eoger finally decided to risk the traditional reply: 

"A friend!" 

The stranger did not seem to accept this encouraging 






276 THE BED BAND. 

answer without reservation, however, for he made no re- 
sponse whatever. 

" Who are you?" added Roger, a little- rudely. 
" Tell me first what you want here, and I will then tell 
you my name." 

" I want to come in and rest, that is all. " 

" I'm not hindering you," growled the stranger. 

There's plenty of room for two. " 

There must be room enough for three, then." 
" For three? Then you are not alone?" 
" No," replied Roger, curtly. 

" That is very different. The hut is too small, and if 
you come in I shall be obliged to leave." 

" Oh, a woman doesn't count, and I am sure we shall 
find room enough." 

" Is that a woman there behind you?" inquired the 
stranger, who must have had sharp eyes to distinguish 
Regina in the darkness. 

" Yes, it is my sister, and as she is very tired I've no 
time to spend waiting at doors," replied the lieutenant, 
impatiently. 

" Come, come, don't get angry. As the third party is a 
woman I think we can manage it. Wait a minute till I 
strike a light. ' ' 

The lieutenant was about to protest against such an im- 
prudence, but it occurred to him that a confession of his 
fears would betray the secret of his flight, so he was silent. 
The sharp crack of a match, and the faint blue gleam of 
sulphur in the darkness proved that the inmate of the hut 
was keeping his promise, and a few seconds afterward the 
flickering light of a candle illumined the interior of this 
humble retreat which Roger could take in at a single 
glance. 

" Now your apartment is ready," remarked. the stranger, 
" and that of madame as well. " 

Without taking any notice of this attempt at pleasantry 



THE RED BAND. 277 

the lieutenant shouldered his pack, and with his pick still 
in his hand, stepped upon the threshold. The young girl 
followed him without evincing the slightest uneasiness; in- 
deed, judging from her calmness, one might have supposed 
she had anticipated this meeting. 

Roger, before stepping through the door-way, which was 
so low that he was obliged to bend his head, took a hasty 
survey of the hut and its occupant. Built of rough logs, 
surmounted with a thatched roof, and destitute of win- 
dows, this primitive abode must have formerly served as a 
temporary shelter for wood-cutters, for the only furniture 
consisted of three or four old chairs and the trunk of a tree 
that served as a table. 

The occupant of the hut was a stout man, with a rather 
jovial face, and clad in gray blouse. There was nothing 
unfriendly in his manner or in his attitude, and no such 
thing as a surprise was possible in the narrow space in- 
closed by the four log walls of the cabin. 

All this was so reassuring that Eoger decided to enter, 
and taking his companion by the hand, he led her inside, 
and then carefully closed the door behind him. 

"You must excuse us for frightening you, comrade," 
he remarked, as he entered, for he had decided to prevent 
any questions by a faithful impersonation of his role of 
peddler. 

" Frightening me! Oh, no, indeed, I assure you. I — I 
have nothing to conceal or to — to fear/' stammered the 
stranger. 

The eagerness with which the speaker protested against 
the supposition, and his evident embarrassment, seemed 
very strange to the lieutenant. 

" Of course not," he replied, with an air of profound 
conviction, " but in these times, you know, and at night, 
in the middle of a forest, one never knows with whom one 
lias to deal. " 

"That is true," replied the stranger; '''besides, when 



278 THE RED BAND. 

one has one's goods with him one is naturally a little sus- 
picious. " 

" Goods!" repeated Eoger. 

" Yes, and a big lot of them," replied the man, point- 
ing to a pack that was standing in a corner of the hut. 
" I am a peddler, as you see." 

"A peddler!" exclaimed the officer before he had time 
to repress this expression of his surprise. 

" Yes, at your service, comrade. " 

It would be difficult to imagine a more unfortunate coin- 
cidence for Roger, who was so little acquainted with the 
role he had assumed, for the prospect of being obliged to 
talk with a confrere about fairs and the price of merchan- 
dise was annoying in the extreme. 

" And you are in the same business, I see," he added. 
" It seems strange. I suppose you are on your way from — " 

"Saint Germain," replied the lieutenant, "and I am 
going—" 

" To Poissy, perhaps?" hastily interposed the stranger. 

"Yes." 

" Then we shall not be able to travel along together, I 
am sorry to say, for I am on my way to Acheres," re- 
marked the other peddler, in a tone that belied his words. 

" How singular!" thought Eoger. " He seems to be as 
anxious to get rid of me as I am to get rid of him." 

Then he added, aloud: 

" As soon as my sister has rested an hour or two we 
shall have to trudge on again, for we have a long way to 
go." 

"Yes, the girl must indeed be tired," remarked the 
stranger, examining Kegina more attentively. 

" She is a brave girl, though, and no chatter-box. She is 
deaf and dumb," remarked Roger. 

"Is it possible! Poor child!" exclaimed the stranger, 
who seemed to be sincere this time. 

" Yes, but that doesn't prevent her from being a good 



THE RED BAND. 279 

saleswoman. In fact, she can beat me," added Roger, 
who was beginning to enter into the spirit of his role. 

"Well, comrade, I haven't much to offer you," re- 
sponded the other, " but if you will take a bite and drink 
a glass of wine with me, I have enough to keep all three of 
us from starving in my pack." 

Roger hesitated, but he fancied he read a look advising 
him to accept in Regina's eyes, so he accepted. 

"We can talk while we eat," continued the -stranger, 
" and I sha'n't be -sorry, for I've been by myself three 
days, and I've nearly lost the use of my tongue. " 

Then, as if he feared he had said too much, he knelt 
down to open his pack, and Roger fancied that a slight 
flush suffused his face. 

In a peddler who was in the habit of running about to 
fairs this was certainly very strange. 

" I really must find out about this man," thought the 
officer. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

So many strange events had followed one another in 
quick succession since his escape from the hospital at Saint 
Germain that Roger had scarcely had time to think. 

The expedition to the giant oak, the arrival of the 
Prussians, the conflagration in the forest, and their subse- 
quent flight, all these exciting events had passed without 
comment. 

He had not even had the consolation of talking over 
these matters with a friend, for the sole companion of his 
dangers could neither speak nor hear. 

On reaching the hut Roger had hoped to be able to con- 
sult with Regina by the only means at her command, that 
is to say, with the slate or the alphabet she always carried 
around with her. 

He had so many things to say to her, so many questions 



280 THE RED BAND. 

to ask about those who were dear to him, that he longed un- 
speakably for a few moments conversation with her, and his 
annoyance on unexpectedly encountering a brother peddler 
was correspondingly great, to say nothing of the fact that 
there was a certain air of mystery about the stranger's per- 
son and manner that was well calculated to make the lieu- 
tenant uneasy. 

Perhaps Eegina shared his distrust, but if she did she 
gave no sign, for her companion, who was used to reading 
the expression of her eyes, saw there only a lively curiosity. 

While these thoughts were passing through Roger's mind 
the stranger was completing his preparations for the im- 
promptu supper. 

He had produced a loaf of bread, a cold fowl, some 
cheese and apples, and had spread them out upon a large 
red handkerchief which he had taken from his pack to 
serve as a table-cloth, and concluded his preparations by 
detaching from his belt a leather-covered flask, which he 
set down in front of him with great care and respect. 

" You see there is no danger of our starving this even- 
ing, comrades," he remarked, gayly. 

" I should say not," replied Roger, " I'm not as well off 
as you are, for I was in such a hurry that I forgot to lay in 
a fresh stock of provisions at Saint Germain." 

"That doesn't matter. When there's enough for one 
there's enough for three," interrupted the stranger. 

"But I'm afraid we shall be robbing you," remarked 
Roger. " You have a long distance to go, perhaps, and — " 

"Oh, no, my journey will end to-night," replied the 
stranger. " To-morrow I shall have no further use for 
my store of eatables." 

" Your journey will end to-night, did you say?" asked 
the lieutenant, looking his host full in the face. 

" No, no, I didn't mean that exactly, but you know 
down at Maisons one can get whatever one needs." 

" Why, I thought you were going to Acheres?" 



THE RED BAND. 281 

This time Roger distinctly saw the blood mount the 
cheek of the peddler, who went energetically to work to 
carve the chicken instead of replying. 

This was no time to insist, but it was impossible to doubt 
the existence of a mystery any longer, and while he intended 
to solve it if possible, the young man mentally resolved to 
be more prudent. 

Regina, who was usually very indifferent to the pleasures 
of the table, seemed to enjoy her supper very much that 
evening, nor was the fact to be wondered at, inasmuch as 
the food must have been very acceptable after her long 
walk; and the calmness and tranquillity she displayed par- 
tially reassured the lieutenant, who had great confidence in 
his companion's sagacity. Nevertheless, while he did am- 
ple justice to the repast, he did not neglect to watch his 
host furtively but closely. 

There was very little to be lea'rned from his face, which 
was that of a rather commonplace middle-aged person. He 
was of medium height, stout rather than thin, and the 
possessor of features that were as regular as they were in- 
significant. 

The prevailing expression of his countenance was that 
of gayety — a gayety tempered by a certain reserve whose 
cause was not yet clearly apparent. There was a perpetual 
smile upon his rather thick lips, and a restlessness in his 
small gray eyes, but not the slightest sign of cunning. 

The tout ensemble was entirely destitute of distinction, 
and yet his skin was not sunburned like that of a man 
whose business compels him to spend most of his time in 
the open air, and his hands, though broad and thick, were 
evidently not used to work. 

" After all, he, like myself, may have good reasons for 
concealing himself," thought Eoger, " but with no evil in- 
tentions." 

As the repast went on, the host regaled himself frequent- 
'j ivQva. the flask, and in proportion as its contents disap- 



282 THE BED BAND. 

peared from view, he seemed more and more inclined to 
talk, so Eoger resolved not to neglect this opportunity to 
question him. 

" Well, comrade," he began, without appearing to attach 
much importance to the question, "how are our friends 
down there in the Army of the Loire getting on?" 

The stranger frowned slightly, but replied with a care- 
less shrug of the shoulders : 

" I don't know, upon my word! I have just been mak- 
ing a trip through Normandy, and, provided goods sell 
well, I don't trouble myself much about other matters." 

" That is about the case with me; still, that doesn't pre- 
vent me from being a Frenchman, and it makes my blood 
boil to hear these Prussians boast. Would you believe it, 
in Saint Germain they are openly declaring in all the cafes 
that Paris can't hold out a week longer?" 

" They certainly are a set of boasters," said the other 
peddler, philosophically. 

" Still, I don't know but they're about right. Only yes- 
terday I met a miller who seems to understand the condi- 
tion of affairs pretty well, and he told me that the Parisians 
hadn't flour enough to last the year out. " 

"It is false!" exclaimed the stranger, hotly. " Paris 
has flour enough to last six weeks, and horse-flesh enough 
for four months." 

" How do you know?" 

" I — I have heard them say so — at the fairs. You know, 
at fairs — people talk a good deal, and of course 1 listen," 
stammered the other peddler, evidently much embarrassed. 

" Oh, I had no intention of blaming you. Though I sell 
to the Prussians, and make a good deal of money out of 
them, I am a true Frenchman at heart, and when I meet 
good patriots like yourself it does me good. To your health, 
comrade!" 

"And to yours!" responded the other peddler, accepting 
the flask from the hands of his new friend. 



THE KED BAND. 283 

" And now, as you seem to be a pretty good sort of a 
man, you will give me a little information, perhaps?" re- 
marked Roger. 

" I will, of course, if I can." 

" Do you know whether they require passports at Mai- 
sons?" 

" Yes; just as they do everywhere else. " 

" I asked the question because I'm afraid that mine 
doesn't exactly meet the requirements, and I should like to 
know — " 

" I couldn't tell you, however," interrupted the stranger. 
" The requirements vary in different places — " 

" But you have one, haven't you?" 

" Certainly, and it is signed by two colonels and a ma- 
jor." 

" Prussians?" 

" Of course. It states my name, which is Pierre Bour- 
dier, if you care to know; and then the rest, born in Rouen, 
and traveling from Evreux to Beauvais." 

Just then, some one tapped gently on the door of the hut 
— so gently that the sound would have escaped any but an 
attentive and practiced ear. 

Bourdier did not appear to have heard the sound, and for 
a moment Roger fancied he must have been mistaken, for 
it seemed highly improbable that any visitor would come to 
this lonely hut at this hour of the night; besides, how 
could he have approached without betraying his presence, 
for in the profound silence that pervaded this secluded por- 
tion of the forest, the slightest sound awakened an echo. 

To guard against any surprise, the young lieutenant rose, 
and turning to his host, asked: 

" Did you hear anything just now?" 

" Nothing," replied the peddler, with an air of surprise 
that evidently was not assumed. 

" I thought I heard some one. " 

" Where?" 



vb-t THE RED BAND. 

" There, outside the door." 

"Eeally?" 

" Yes; I could have sworn that some one rapped." 

" It was the wind, probably?" 

The stranger's embarrassment as he made this reply in- 
stantly excited Eoger's suspicions. 

" What if he is in league with some one to betray us, and 
deliver us up to the Prussians?" he thought. 

Just as this idea occurred to him, the rapping was re- 
peated. 

This time there could be no possible doubt. 

A human being had just announced his presence, and 
was demanding an entrance. 

The man who answered to the name of Pierre Bourdier 
■was on his feet in an instant, and slipped his hand under 
his blouse, as if in search of a weapon. Eoger seized his 
pick, and both, forgetting their mutual distrust, turned to 
the door. 

'' What if it should be a Prussian?" muttered the lieu- 
tenant. 

" Then we shall have to kill him," hissed the peddler 
through his set teeth. 

His good-natured face had suddenly assumed a resolute 
expression that struck Roger. Eegina did not move, 
though her companion's attitude must have warned her of 
their danger. Possibly it had already occurred to her that 
the intruders would have entered less ceremoniously had 
they been Prussians. 

" Are you ready, comrade?" asked the lieutenant. 

" To exterminate two or three — yes." 

" Then I will open the door, and you can count upon my 
assistance." 

The visitor could hardly have failed to hear every word 
of this conversation, but it did not seem to frighten him, 
for he continued to rap with the same regularity and gen- 
tleness. 



THE RED BAND. 285 

If the intruder was an enemy, he was certainly not an 
impatient or violent one, for at least five minutes had been 
spent in consultations and in preparations for defense; but 
perhaps this might be only a ruse to entice them out of the 
cabin, and Eoger, who suspected this, governed himself ac- 
cordingly. 

The door opened on the outside. Roger motioned Eegina 
and Bourdier to stand where the light of the candle would 
not fall full upon them, and then stationed himself where 
the door would screen him, but where the enemy would 
also be within his reach. 

The intruder that presented himself to view was by no 
means formidable, however, for the door had scarcely 
opened when a fragile form appeared upon the threshold, 
and a plaintive voice uttered the words: 

" Charity, my good gentlemen, if you please." ; 

Eoger was so little prepared to hear this traditional for- 
mula, that ho gave a start of surprise, and stepped forward 
to get a better look at this strange mendicant who went 
roaming about the forest at night in quest of alms. 

" Come in," he cried, brusquely, seizing the intruder 
roughly by the collar, and the movement was executed with 
such promptness and precision that the door was closed and 
the beggar hurled into the middle of the hut before he had 
time to reply. 

The insignificant appearance of the new-comer did not 
seem to justify the precautions taken against him. He was 
a lad not more than thirteen or fourteen years of age, in 
whose pinched face and puny form there was nothing in the 
least formidable. He was clad ih dirty rags that only par- 
tially covered his body. His feet, reddened by the cold, 
were destitute of shoes, which explained how he had been 
able to reach the door of the hut without making any 
noise, while his head -gear consisted only of a rough thatch 
of red hair that hung down upon his low forehead and half 
concealed his eyes. 

2-2d half. 



286 THE BED BANC 

The hardest heart could scarcely remain untouched in the 
presence of such misery, and Eoger could but experience a 
feeling of remorse at the thought that he had prolonged the 
child's suffering by keeping him waiting outside in the cold. 
He was ashamed, too, of having taken so many precau- 
tions, and hastily laid down his weapon. 

The child did not appear at all alarmed, however, but 
seemed to be examining Regina with close attention, though, 
dressed as she was, there was nothing in her appearance 
that would be likely to excite astonishment. 

" "What do you want, boy:" asked the peddler, who was 
watching the lad with some distrust. 

" Charity, my good gentlemen," repeated the gamin, in 
the same monotonous tone. 

"We are not millionaires," replied Bourdier, " but if you 
want something to eat we will give it to you all the same." 

The lad made no reply. 

" Are you hungry?" asked Koger. 

" Yes, my good sir. " 

" And thirsty?" 

" Yes, my good sir." 

This refrain seemed to have been learned by heart, for 
he repeated it in the same sing-song tone in which he would 
have repeated a lesson. 

" Then sit down and help yourself to what is left," said 
the peddler, pointing to a chair, and pushing the bread and 
cheese and the nearly empty flask in front of his new guest. 
The beggar obeyed without a word, and, drawing a knife 
from his pocket, began his supper. 

Eoger and the peddler reseated themselves and began to 
watch their guest eat. They soon exchanged significant 
glances. The same thought had occurred to each of them. 
This mendicant, though he pretended to be nearly fam- 
ished, eat with singular deliberation. He seemed to have 
great difficulty in swallowing even the tiny fragments of 
bread that he cut, and he scarcely touched the cheese. 



THE RED BAND. 287 

" Where did you come from?" inquired Pierre Bourdier. 

The child slowly disposed of a mouthful before replying. 
One might have supposed that he was weighing his words. 

" I got lost in the forest, my good gentlemen/' he said 
at last. 

" What were you doing in the forest?" 

There was another silence, then the gamin, beginning 
with his invariable formula, said: 

" My good sir, I was returning from Carrieres where I 
went to drive some cows for my uncle." 

" You belong in this neighborhood, then?" 

"To be sure I do." 

" Then you can guide us to Maisons or Ache res, I sup- 
pose?" 

" Yes, indeed," replied the lad, promptly, forgetting his 
refrain this time. " I know all the roads, and I could take 
you there with my eyes shut." 

"Indeed!" exclaimed the peddler. " Then how did you 
happen to get lost?' ' 

The lad, caught in the trap set for him by Bourdier, re- 
sponded stupidly: 

"I don't know." 

" He must be an idiot," muttered Roger. 

The peddler gave a wink that said plainly: 

" Not so much of an idiot as you think." 

Then he added, aloud: 
: "If you will tell us the way to Maisons I will give you a 
twenty-sous piece." 

" I'll do it, but I shall have to go with you," replied the 
lad, promptly. 

" Very well; we'll start as soon as you've finished your 
supper. " 

"'' Oh, I can ©at as I go along," said tha gamin, spring- 
ing to his feet. 

"It is strange that he's so anxious to go with us," 
thought Roger, but at the same instant he felt the peddler 



288 THE RED BAND. 

slip into his hand something that he had just picked up off 
the floor, and that must have fallen from the child's pocket. 

Rising, he turned to examine what Bourdier had so mys- 
teriously handed him, and found it was a Prussian thaler. 

This discovery had a significance which ifc was impossible 
to misunderstand, for it could have been given him only by 
Prussians, and as the people of that nation are proverbially 
stingy, he must have rendered them an important service 
to be thus rewarded. 

These very logical deductions instantly flashed through 
the mind of Eoger, and it was enough for him to glance at 
the peddler to see that the same idea had occurred to him. 

" In a minute, lad. We are not in such a hurry as all 
that," said Pierre Bourdier, who probably wanted to have 
time to reflect before coming to a decision. 

The situation had certainly become much more compli- 
cated. Nothing could be easier than for two vigorous men 
to rid themselves of this puny boy, but this would not avert 
the real clanger. What was there to j>rove that the Prus- 
sians were not concealed somewhere in the immediate vicin- 
ity of the hut, ready to rush in at the first signal or at the 
lad's first cry for help? 

Still the lad's unmistakable eagerness to see them on 
their way seemed to indicate other plans on his part. The 
intention to betray was evident. Everything indicated the 
young rascal's resolve to conduct his hosts straight into the 
Prussian lines, and he unquestionably offered himself as a 
guide with this perfidious intention. 

To decline his services would be easy, it is true, but how 
were they to prevent him from following them at a distance 
in order to denounce them at the first Prussian outpost they 
came to on the road. 

The action of the peddler in picking up the thaler had 
dispelled all Roger's suspicions in regard to him, and the 
certainty of having found an ally consoled the young officer 
a little; but he was anxious to devise some way of consult- 



THE RED BAKD. 289 

ing with him without being heard by the lad and without 
exciting his suspicions. 

The young rascal had resumed his seat, and was now en- 
gaged in paring an apple, probably for the sake of having 
some occupation, and his face, which had become so ani- 
mated a moment before when the question of departure 
was mooted, had regained its usual stupid expression. 

Bourdier sat with his elbows on his knees and his chin 
resting in his hands. He was evidently endeavoring to find 
some way out of the dilemma; and Roger was looking in- 
quiringly at Regina, to whom he instinctively turned for 
aid in all trying situations. 

The silence was profound, and the lad occasionally stole 
a furtive glance at his hosts, as if wondering why they did 
not speak. 

The lieutenant's astonishment was intense when he saw 
Regina pick up her satchel, open it, and take from it sev- 
eral pieces of small coin and a pack of cards. 

For an instant he thought she must have gone mad, but 
her manner was perfectly calm, and her face, which had 
been so grave a moment before, had become smiling. 

She laid the cards down in front of her, and pushed for- 
ward a piece of money. 

The lad watched her wonderingly, but did not move. 
Roger alone noticed the sudden gleam in his eyes as the 
girl displayed her slender hoard. 

At last she touched the lad gently on the arm, and nod- 
ded her head inquiringly. 

" Do you want to play?" he asked. 
; Regina gave a nod of acquiescence. 

"All right! I know how to play hataille," cried the 
boy, seizing the cards. 

" A good idea, that!" muttered the peddler, with a side 
glance at the lieutenant. 

"Go ahead, little one, and win ten sous before we 
start," said Roger. 



290 THE RED BAKD. 

"All right, my good gentlemen; that suits me/' re- 
sponded the urchin, resuming his drawl. 

" And if you lose, what will you pay with?" asked Bour- 
dier. 

" I shaVt lose," answered the young rascal, promptly. 

On hearing this announcement, which so plainly indicated 
the lad's intention of cheating, if necessary, the officer could 
hardly repress a smile; but his comrade, who did not lose 
sight of more important matters, rose and said : 

" I think we shall have time to smoke a pipe outside. 
The smell of tobacco-smoke is disagreeable to my sister; so 
she can amuse herself here with the boy, while we have a 
little smoke.-" 

" Very well," replied Eoger, understanding the motive 
that prompted the suggestion. 

" Well, boy, good luck to you!" remarked Bourdier, as 
he opened the door. " Hold yourself in readiness to start 
as soon as I have finished my pipe." 

As soon as they had crossed the threshold, and carefully 
closed the door behind them, the two men exchanged a si- 
lent pressure of the hand, and Bourdier whispered, hur- 
riedly: 

" Over theue, behind the rock!" 

A moment afterward, they found themselves face to face 
at the spot indicated. Bourdier was the first to speak. 

" Sir," he said, with a sudden change of tone and lan- 
guage, " you distrusted me a few moments ago, as I at first 
distrusted you, but I think you are now satisfied in regard 
to me." 

" Certainly," said Roger, though his doubts were not en- 
tirely dispelled. 

"'Oh, well," resumed the man in the gray blouse, " I see 
that I shall have to confess first, for we have no time to 
lose. In the first place, I am no more a peddler than you 
are." 

" Ah!" said the officer, coldly. 



THE RED BAND. 291 

' ' Listen, sir, " continued the pretended peddler, no whit 
disconcerted; " I am not much of a talker, but I think I 
am something of a physiognomist, and I saw through your 
disguise at least an hour ago. " 

Eoger recoiled a step or two. 

" Oh, I don't ask you for your secret, but I certainly 
have a right to tell you mine. I am the bearer of impor- 
tant dispatches from the general in command of the Army of 
the Loire, and I am trying to make my way to Paris 
through the Prussian lines. If I am captured, I shall be 
shot without mercy. You have only to say a word, or make 
a sign to that young scoundrel in there, and I'm a dead 
man. Do you still distrust me?" 

These last words were uttered with so much simplicity 
and frankness that all Roger's doubts vanished. 

" You are a brave man," he said, in a voice that trem- 
bled with emotion, at the same time extending a hand that 
the other grasped cordially. 

" Yes; I think so," replied the pretended peddler, laugh- 
ing. 

" And I will have no further secrets from you," added 
the young lieutenant. " I am an officer in the French 
army; I was wounded and taken prisoner two months ago; 
I escaped only last evening from the hospital at Saint Ger- 
main, and if I fall into the hands of the Prussians my life 
will be worth no more than yours. ' ' 

" I sincerely hope that neither of us will be captured," 
exclaimed Pierre Bourdier. " As for the lady — " 

" It is to her and to her devotion that I am indebted for 
my liberty, and — " 

' ' You can tell me all about that by and by. Time is 
precious now, for we must devise some way of getting out 
of the scrape into which this young rascal has led us. " 

" Yes; and if you can find a way of escape, you are clev- 
erer than I am. " 
. "Well, I have." 



292 THE RED BAND. 

"Let me hear it." 

" It is very simple, but it may not suit you." 

" What is it?" 

" First of all, I must know what you intend to do. You 
say that you have been a prisoner at Saint Germain, and 
that you succeeded in making your escape, thanks to the 
assistance of the young lady. This fact does not surprise 
me, for she seems to me exceedingly clever; but I have no 
idea where you wish to go." 

" I want to get as far as possible from the Prussians," 
replied the officer, evasively. 

" Of course, but that is easier said than done, for the 
rascals are everywhere, and you will have to pass through 
their lines whichever way you go. ' ' 

" Then what difference does it make which road I take?" 
said Roger, with the indifference of a man who is resigned 
to any misfortune. 

" On the contrary, it does make a vast amount of differ- 
ence, and I will tell you why. I am on my way to Paris, 
as I confessed just now, and I am resolved to reach there or 
perish by the way. When I left that city, a fortnight ago, 
I had no idea of the danger to which I was exposing myself, 
but now that I have had the good fortune to fulfill half of 
my mission, I certainly am not going to abandon the idea 
of completing it. You, on the contrary, have the power 
to choose. " 

" Choose between what?" 

" Why, between joining one of our armies in the prov- 
inces, or re-entering the corps in which you were serving 
at the time of your capture, for I will not insult you by 
supposing that you think of returning to your home while 
the very existence of France is in jeopardy. " 

" You are right, and you are a noble man," replied 
Eoger. 

" You must decide, and at once, whether you will make 
a desperate effort to reach the old fortifications of Paris, 



THE EED IiAKD. 293 

which are still holding out, and which will continue to hold 
out a long time, I hope/' continued Bourdier, " or make 
your way cautiously through Xormandy or down the Maine, 
and as all roads lead to Borne, join the Army of the Xorth 
or the Army of the Loire. " 

" That is true," muttered the young officer, struck by 
the clearness with which his new friend presented the two 
alternatives. 

'• It is merely a matter of taste/' remarked Pierre, gay- 
ly. " One can be of as much service to his country in one 
place as in the other. There is plenty of danger and glory 
for every one now." 

" And I want my share of it," said Roger, straightening 
himself up, proudly. 

" Ah, well, then, choose, comrade, choose." 

"I — I don't -know — I can not decide yet," stammered 
the lieutenant who had had no chance to confer with 
Regina, and who was unwilling to decide without consult- 
ing her. *• 

" I will assist you if you wish," replied Bourdier. " It 
will be much easier for you to reach the provinces than to 
reach Paris. You know, of course, that the Prussians can 
not spread themselves out over the entire country, and our 
militia harass them so much that they have no time to run 
after any solitary individuals who may be traveling through 
the land. If you decide for the Army of the Loire I will 
give you a little itinerary which will take you there as easily 
as if you were going from Paris to Saint Cloud. Every 
evening, or rather every morning, for it will be better for 
you to travel during the night and rest in the day-time, you 
will reach the house of a worthy peasant of my acquaint- 
ance who will receive you with open arms when you give 
him the pass-word I will disclose to you. " 

" And Eegina would be exposed to very little danger, you 
think?" 

" Much less than in this confounded forest, I assure you." 



294 THE BED BAND. 

" This would be the most prudent course, I suppose/' re- 
marked the officer. 

" There is not the slightest doubt of it. Now let us 
consider the other. To reach Paris would be a much more 
difficult matter. Two lines of Prussian posts are to be 
passed, the Seine is to be crossed three times, and to cap 
the climax, there is a very good chance of receiving a bullet 
from our sharpshooters, who have a very inconvenient 
habit of firing right and left, especially at night." 

" Still, if I were alone, I think I should make the vent- 
ure/' muttered the lieutenant; " but with Eegina — " 

" But," continued Pierre Bourdier, without showing any 
signs of having heard this remark, " but after all this 
comes Paris, and the friends, the relatives, the sisters, and 
— the betrothed one has left there." 

His voice trembled with emotion, and his eyes sparkled. 
"lam speaking only for myself, of course," he added, 
gently. 

" But I too have friends and companions *in arms, and 
a — a relative — in Paris!" exclaimed Roger. 

: ' Besides," continued the pretended peddler, " there is 
France — " 
"France?" 

" Yes, for so long as Paris holds out our country still 
lives, and if Paris succumbs — Ah, well, I shall at least 
have the consolation of falling with the city in which I first 
saw the light." 

Eoger could restrain himself no longer, and seizing the 
hand of his heroic companion, he exclaimed, enthusiastically: 
" We will start together whenever you say the word. " 
" I was sure you would accompany me," said Bourdier, 
whose excitement had suddenly given place to an air of cold 
resolve. " I have known for an hour that I could depend 
upon you, as you can depend upon me. " 

" We will reach Paris or we will all three perish in the 
attempt," said Eoger, firmly. 



THE BED BAND. 295 

''Listen to me/ 'said the brave messenger. " This is 
the fourth time I have made this venture, and I know the 
country as well as you know your company. I tell you 
this so you can feel safe in leaving the selection of our 
route to me." 

" I fear only one thing, and that is that I shall hamper 
your movements, and be a hinderance to you." 

" Quite the contrary, lieutenant," said Pierre, gayly. 
" In union there is strength. That is the motto engraved 
upon the hundred-sous pieces, and you will find that the 
device is a good one. But the first thing to be done is to 
get rid of that young scoundrel in there, who will betray us 
before daylight if I don't take, measures to prevent it. I 
have had abundant opportunities to become acquainted 
with that race of vipers, and I know a way to circumvent 
them." 

" Tell me quickly then, for we have been talking here a 
long time, and I'm afraid he suspects our plans." 

" There's no danger of that. He is too busily engaged 
in cheating your sister." 

Just then a sound like that of scuffling reached them 
from the hut. 

" Listen!" said Eoger. 

" One would suppose there was a fight going on in 
there." 

-' But that is impossible, for there is no one there but 
Eegina and the boy. " 

" But the young imp is quite capable of killing her to 
secure possession of her money," muttered Pierre Bour- 
dier. 

" Let us make haste, then!" cried the officer, horrified 
by this idea which had not occurred to him before. " Upon 
•my word, I believe you are right. We will resume our 
conversation presently after we see what is going on." 

And the worthy peddler darted off, closely followed by 
Eoger. 



296 THE RED BAttD. 

Just as they were rounding the corner of the big mass of 
granite that overhung the ravine, the door of the hut sud- 
denly opened, and a human form appeared upon the 
threshold. 

" The young scoundrel!" exclaimed Bourdier. 

He bounded toward the hut, but just as he was about to 
seize the beggar by the collar — for it was he who had just 
appeared in the door-way — the young rascal stooped so sud- 
denly and adroitly that the hand of the peddler encountered 
only empty air, and before he had time to repeat the at- 
tempt the boy was beyond his reach. 

Never did a serpent slip more suddenly through the 
hands of the person ready to crush it. 

Bourdier turned hastily, but he was too late; the little 
monster had already disappeared around the corner of the 
hut. 

"I'll catch him, never fear!" said the messenger from 
the Army of the Loire, starting off in hot pursuit, and the 
night being dark, a few seconds afterward both of them 
were out of sight. 

All this had occurred in much less time than it takes to 
tell it, and Eoger ^tood petrified with astonishment and 
terror. 

At last the thought of Eegina recurred to his mind, and 
he rushed wildly into the hut. 

The door was open, but profound darkness enshrouded 
the interior of the cabin, for the light had been extin- 
guished in the struggle. 

" Eegina, where are you?" cried Eoger, forgetting in his 
terror that the poor child could not hear him. 

There was, of course, no response, and with hands out- 
stretched Eoger made his way cautiously across the cabin, 
fearing all the while that he might step on the prostrate 
body of the young girl. His heart throbbed almost to 
bursting, and he trembled so that more than once he was 
obliged to lean against the wall to keep from falling. 



THE KED BAND. 297 

Finding nothing the young officer finally stooped to 
search for the extinguished lantern, and as he did so a hand 
was laid softly on his arm. 

" You are living!" he exclaimed. " Thank God!" 

Almost at the same instant the fingers of his other hand 
came in contact with the box of matches Pierre Bourdier 
had used. 

To find the overturned lantern was only the work of a 
moment now, and as soon as it was lighted he uttered a 
cry of joy. 

The young girl was sitting in the same chair in which he 
had left her, and though she was very pale she seemed to 
be neither hurt nor much frightened. Her clothing was 
disordered, but that was the only trace of the struggle left 
upon her person. 

Beassured in regard to his companion's fate, the lieuten- 
ant felt the necessity of an immediate decision concerning 
his future course, for time was precious. Bourdier had 
started off in pursuit of the beggar lad, but whether he 
succeeded in capturing him or not he would soon return. 

Yet no sound came from the forest. 

" What is to be done?" murmured the officer, gloomily. 

To wait for Pierre Bourdier's return was to run a great 
risk of capture, for the night was far spent, and the Prus- 
sians might appear with the dawn. 

To make his way through the forest in the direction of 
Normandy was still possible, but since his new friend had 
spoken of the chance of reaching Paris a wild desire to re- 
join Eenee had taken possession of Boger's heart. In fact, 
he had decided to make the attempt and risk his life to see 
the woman he loved again. 

But he had very little chance of success without Bour- 
dier's assistance, and the thought of exposing Regina to 
almost certain death made him shudder; but on the other 
hand the idea of thus deserting the companion Providence 
had sent him was most distasteful to him. 



298 THE RED BAND. 

Eegina, as usual; came to his assistance. She had re- 
gained her wonted composure, and seeing her so calm and 
composed, one could hardly believe that she had just been 
the victim of such gross violence. 

Eoger saw her open the satchel she wore suspended from 
her belt, and take from it a slate on which she hastily 
Wrote these words: 

" "We must leave immediately." 

"Ah! poor child, she does not know where I want to 
go!" he exclaimed, sorrowfully. 

But after glancing up at him with eyes that sparkled 
with intelligence and heroic resolve, she rubbed out the 
words, and to Roger's profound astonishment, hastily pen- 
ciled these lines: 

" They are waiting for us in Paris, and we can reach 
there to-morrow. ' ' 

" Paris!" exclaimed the lieutenant. " One would almost 
think that she could read my thoughts." 

Paris! that magical word made- him forget everything 
else. 

Bourdier's absence, the terrible dangers of the journey 
that lay before them, were for a time forgotten, but as he 
stooped to shoulder his pack his eyes fell upon that of the 
other peddler, which its owner had left standing in a corner 
of the hut. 

The sight of it instantly aroused the lieutenant's remorse, 
and he asked himself — and this time very seriously — if he 
had any right to thus abandon the generous companion 
who was even now endeavoring to rid them of a dangerous 
enemy. 

While he was thus reflecting Eegina stepped up to him, 
took his arm, and leading him gently to the door of the 
hut, pointed to that part of the sky where the stars that 
form the Great Bear were shining. 

Eoger had never devoted much attention to astronomy, 
but he understood the girl's motive, for the position of the 



THE RED BAND. 299 

constellation indicated that the night was far spent, and 
Regina's gesture said plainly: 

" It is time to start." 

"Ah! she does not know all," Roger said to himself. 
" She did not hear what that brave man said to me. It is 
even possible that she still distrusts him. How can I make 
her understand the debt of gratitude we owe him, and how 
much assistance he could still render us?" 

Without waiting for any sign of assent, however, Eegina 
picked up the lantern, opened it, took out the candle, ex- 
tinguished it, and threw it far out among the bushes. 

It would have been impossible to say more emphatically: 

" I understand what you would like to do; nevertheless, 
we must depart, and at once. " 

Eoger felt himself vanquished, and yielded to the strong 
will that had gained the mastery over him more than once. 
The feeling that urged him to wait for Bourdier's return 
gave place to a sort of superstitious confidence in Regina, 
for it seemed to him that the kind Providence that had 
been watching over him ever since his escape manifested 
itself in the unerring instinct of this strange young girl. 

He turned, however, for one last glance at the wretched 
hut, and pictured to himself the poor peddler returning, 
disappointed and fatigued, only to find the place deserted. 

" After all, my departure will not prevent him from 
continuing his journey," he muttered. " Perhaps he will 
even get through the Prussian lines more easily with- 
out us. " 

Just as this thought came to ease his troubled conscience 
he fancied he heard a sound in the distance, and after 
listening a moment he became satisfied that it came from 
the very direction in which Pierre Bourdier had gone. 

It was much louder and more regular than the footsteps 
of any one person traveling through the forest, and as it 
was approaching the cottage Roger soon distinguished the 
measured tread of horses' hoofs upon the frozen ground. 



300 THE RED BAHD. 

The pretended peddler certainly could not be one of this 
cavalcade, which seemed to be quite numerous. 

A squad of cavalry was certainly approaching the cabin. 

"The die is cast!" muttered Eoger, following Eegina, 
who had been trying to drag him out of the hut for several 
seconds. 

It was certainly time to flee, for the riders had just 
broken into a trot, and it was not unlikely that they sus- 
pected the presence of the fugitives. 

The young girl could not be conscious of their danger, as 
it was impossible for her to hear the sound, but her instinct 
continued to serve her wonderfully well, for she unhesitat- 
ingly selected the best direction to avoid the enemy. 

After rounding the corner of the huge mass of granite at 
whose base the two pretended peddlers had held their con- 
ference, she turned into a path whose existence the young 
officer had not even suspected. It was not even wide 
enough for two persons to walk abreast, so it would be 
utterly impracticable for horsemen; but it was absolutely 
free of all the obstacles that are usually found in forest 
paths. There were no dead branches to crush, no briers 
or overhanging vines to jmt aside, no pebbles to roll about 
under one's feet. One could walk there as easily and 
noiselessly as along a garden path. 

Was it chance, or was it a thorough knowledge of the 
forest that had made Eegina choose this route? This was 
a question that Eoger was unable to answer. 

After a quarter of an hour of rapid walking the fugitives 
had good reason to believe themselves out of danger. At 
all events, they could no longer hear the sound of horses' 
hoofs either because they were now far in advance of the 
squad or because the squad had changed its course. Still 
the young girl walked on without once hesitating or turn- 
ing back, though numerous paths presented themselves. 
It was evident now that Eegina was on familiar ground and 
that she was directing her course toward a certain point. 



THE BED BAND. 301 

By observing cne polar star the lieutenant discovered that 
they were traveling in a north-easterly direction, and he was 
sufficiently acquainted with the country to know that they 
would eventually reach the neighborhood of Maisons Laffitte 
if they continued to follow their present course. 

" What will become of us," he thought, " when we reach 
the open country, where each village is occupied, and the 
enemy's surveillance is incessant?" 

But as it was too late to draw back, and as he had faith 
in his leader besides, Roger followed her without a protest. 

They had walked at least two hours when Begina sud- 
denly paused, and, depositing her burden at the base of an 
old beech-tree, motioned her companion to do the same. 

The lieutenant, rather surprised at this abrupt halt, 
looked around him, and started violently on hearing a 
screech-owl send forth a lugubrious shriek from the 
branches above his head. In such a situation as this the 
strongest mind becomes a prey to senseless terror, and 
though Boger was not superstitious the bird's mournful 
cry made an unpleasant impression for which he would 
have blushed at any other time. 

Begina had already placed her satchel against the trunk 
of the tree, and after pressing her companion's hand as if 
to bid him a brief farewell, she stretched herself out upon 
the frozen ground, laid her head on her improvised pillow, 
and closed her eyes. 

A few seconds afterward her slow and regular breathing 
showed that she had fallen into a deep sleep. 

This determination to rest had been carried into execu- 
tion so promptly that the young officer felt considerable 
surprise and uneasiness, especially as morning must be 
near at hand, and with it would come even graver perils 
than those through which they had passed, and this halt 
might cost them dear. 

It did not surprise Boger that his companion had at lasfc 
ipuccumbed to fatigue find a very natural degir^ jjp g^ep^ 



302 THE KED BAND. 

for after six or seven hours of such strenuous exertion and 
terrible anxiety, sleep not unfrequently becomes such an 
imperative necessity that it triumphs over the strongest 
will. And yet the young girl had arranged her rude couch 
so tranquilly that she seemed to be executing a previously 
made plan. When one is the victim of physical and men- 
tal exhaustion one does not stretch one's self out on the 
ground, one sinks down upon it; but Eegina had stretched 
herself out with the methodical coolness of a soldier who 
says to himself, " I shall still have an hour before the bat- 
tle; I must sleep," and who sleeps. That rare power 
which contributes so much to the making of heroes — the 
power to sleep at will— was evidently hers. 

Depositing his pack on the ground he opened it, and took 
from it a piece of heavy cloth that he spread over the girl 
for a covering. 

The cold had perceptibly increased with the approach of 
morning, and a raw chilly wind was rising. 

A sort of lethargy stole over the lieutenant, and he was 
obliged to summon up all his energy to prevent himself 
from yielding to the intense desire to sleep that had taken 
possession of him. 

To watch over the sleeping Eegina was an imperative 
duty, however; besides, sleep in such a temperature as this 
was perhaps death. 

So he began to walk to and fro to warm himself, and the 
ring of his boot-heels on the frozen ground was probably 
not to the taste of the bird perched upon the branches 
above his head, for she again uttered her plaintive cry, and 
it must either have created an echo in the forest, or there 
must have been another bird of the same species within 
hearing, for the cry was repeated in the distance. 

His experience in the army had made the officer suspi- 
cious, and these cries aroused his distrust for an instant. 
It even occurred to him that during the first revolution 
Breton peasants made signals to one another in the forest 



THE RED BAND. 303 

by imitating the lugubrious shriek of the screech-owl. He 
soon dismissed this fancy, however, as being too absurd for 
credence in the present instance, especially as on looking 
up into the tree he could see absolutely nothing on the 
leafless branches, but he perceived that the trunk of the 
tree was covered to a considerable height with withered 
wreaths and faded bouquets that pious passers-by had hung 
beneath a small statue of the Virgin. 

Regina had displayed a thorough knowledge of the forest 
that night, and if she stopped here to sleep under this tree, 
so easily distinguishable from the others, she must have 
had good reasons for so doing. 

Eoger was endeavoring to guess them, when he again 
heard the dismal shriek of the bird of night. This time it 
proceeded from a dense thicket on the same side of the tree 
as at first, but from not nearly as far off. There was no 
response to the call, however, from the top of the beech, so 
the lieutenant concluded that the bird had flown, and he 
was not sorry to be spared a lugubrious sound that inter- 
rupted his reflections and irritated his nerves. 

To Roger's great relief there was no sign of dawn in the 
east, but though they had left Saint Germain long before 
midnight the fugitives had been the victims of so many 
vicissitudes that they had lost a great deal of time, and 
daylight would probably overtake them by the time they 
reached the edge of the forest. 

"If I only had that brave messenger with me," mut- 
tered the lieutenant, "I could ask him about this place 
and the route we ought to take, and I am sure that he 
would be of great assistance to me. But who knows what 
has become of him?" he added, thinking the beggar lad 
must have led him into some trap. 

This soliloquy was interrupted by another shriek from 
the owl in the neighboring thicket. 

The bird was evidently coming nearer, but the owl in 
the beech-tree, if it had not flown, persisted in its silence. 



304 THE RED BAND. 

The cry was repeated after a moment s interval, and this 
time the young officer fancied he recognizeed in this suc- 
cessful imitation certain notes that belong exclusively to 
the human voice. 

The matter was becoming serious, and Eoger deemed it 
prudent to pause in his promenade. He even thought for 
a moment of waking Eegina, but he reflected that she 
would not be of any great service to him in case of an at- 
tack, and that it would be better not to wake her if it 
should prove a false alarm. So he placed himself with his 
back to the tree in such a way as to prevent any possibility 
of an attack in the rear, and to face the danger if danger 
there was. 



CHAPTEE XIV 

The beech at whose base the young girl was sleeping 
stood alone in the midst of a thicket which extended on the 
side toward which Eoger was looking to within about fifteen 
yards of it, so if any enemy approached from that direction 
he could remain concealed until the last moment. 

While the officer was reflecting upon this strategic dis- 
advantage the cry was repeated again, and this time at such 
a short distance that he could not help starting violently. 

In his secret heart, however, he still believed that the 
sound had no special significance. If the signal had been 
answered, as at first, from the top of the tree, the meaning 
of these calls would have been apparent, but silence still 
reigned above Eoger's head. 

" I must be mistaken," he muttered. " It is only some 
frightened owl returning to her nest. Besides, it is getting 
late, and I must rouse Eegina. " 

He was about to step away from the trunk of the tree 
when a quick rustling above his head made him glance up- 
ward, and almost at the same instant two feet were placed 
upon, his shoulders. 



THE RED BAND. 305 

Though Roger was a brave man his blood curdled in his 
veins, and he instinctively sprung back to escape the con- 
tact, at the same time turning to see the foe with whom he 
had to contend. 

But rapid as was the movement he was not as quick as 
his unseen adversary, who sprung to the ground with won- 
derful celerity and seized Eoger by the throat before he 
could assume a defensive attitude. 

The shock was so sudden and so violent that they both 
fell to the ground. Boger, unfortunately, was the under 
one, and the next instant a knee was placed upon his 
breast, and two stalwart hands closed around his throat. 

In vain he attempted to beat off his adversary with his 
clinched fists. He was so unprepared for this sudden at- 
tack that he had not even taken the precaution to seize his 
pick, so the result of this unequal struggle was not doubtful. 

The assailant's intentions were evident. He was simply 
trying to strangle the officer, and his attempt was proving 
eminently successful. 

Saint Senier felt that his breath was failing him. Al- 
ready there was a strange buzzing in his ears, his sight was 
becoming dim, and his brain confused. Then his eyes 
closed. A few seconds more and death would inevitably 
ensue. 

Just as he was about losing consciousness entirely he had 
a vague perception of a shock, and of the sound of a voice. 
The pressure upon his throat suddenly relaxed, and the air 
rushing into his lungs restored the life that was about de- 
serting him. 

There was a moment of intense agony, then he heaved a 
deep sigh, and opening his eyes and glancing around him 
he saw two men, one who was kneeling and trying to lift 
him, and another who was standing over him. 

The new-comer was evidently an ally sent by Heaven to 
prevent the man who had descended from the tree from 
completing his work. The darkness prevented him from 



306 THE RED BANK. 

distinguishing the features of his preserver, but a voice 
that he fancied he recognized fell upon his ear. 

" It was quite time I came, evidently,-" remarked the 
new-comer, in a very cheerful tone. 

" Yes; if you set much store on this man's life. A sec- 
ond more, and I think he would have been a goner. " 

" Well, my friend, how do you feel now?" inquired the 
other, addressing Eoger. 

" It is the peddler!" exclaimed the lieutenant. " Well, 
you'll assist me in dispatching this scoundrel, will you not?" 

" Who? Father Sarrazin here?" asked Pierre Bourdier, 
laughing. 

" Yes; this villain who tried to kill me," continued 
Roger, shaking his clinched fist at the former occupant of 
the tree. 

" It was all a mistake, comrade, all a mistake," said the 
messenger from the Army of the Loire. " Father Sarrazin 
here is a friend, and a trusty one. He treated you rather 
roughly, but it was with the very best of intentions, I assure 
you." 

" I utterly fail to understand," retorted Eoger, dryly. 

" It must seem very odd to you, but I am going to ex- 
plain." 

" Be quick about it, then," interrupted the person styled 
Father Sarrazin, "for I don't like the idea of remaining 
here." 

" Don't be alarmed. It won't take me long. You must 
understand, of course," he continued, turning to Eoger, 
" that I don't travel about the country with dispatches 
without taking my precautions. I have friends everywhere, 
and stopping-places all along the route. When you met 
me over there in the hut I knew that this brave friend was 
waiting for me here, and had it not been for that young 
imp who upset all my plans I should have conducted you 
here myself." 
. "So you had an appointment to meet him under this 



THE i;ed band. 307 

tree:" asked Roger, who was beginning to understand the 
situation. 

" Precisely, and it was a lucky chance that brought you 
here, for I feared you were lost; and, though I don't say it 
boastingly, I feel sure you would find it difficult to get out 
of the scrape alone. " 

The lieutenant could not help blushing at the thought 
that he had basely deserted this unknown fftend, whose 
timely arrival had been the means of saving his life. 

"And how is the young lady?" inquired Pierre Bour- 
dier, gayly. 

" She is lying there asleep. I was about to wake her, so 
we could resume our journey, when I was attacked by — by 
this man," remarked Eoger, who still seemed to harbor 
considerable resentment against his late assailant. 

" Then all will be well!" exclaimed the messenger, rub- 
bing his hands complacently. " We had better rouse the 
young lady at once, and then get away from here as soon 
as possible, for it will be day-break in an hour. " 

" But why did this man attack me without even knowing 
whether or not I was an enemy?" 

" Oh, I shouldn't have molested you, if I hadn't heard 
friend Bourdier coming, " said Father Sarrazin. 

" Yes," added the pretended peddler, " this brave man, 
who was on guard in the tree, saw you on the ground be- 
low. So long as he was alone, he did not move, but when 
I gave the signal to announce my speedy arrival it occurred 
to him that you had perhaps come here to catch me, and 
that I was about to fall into a trap you had set for me." 

" So that screech-owl — " 

" Was your humble servant, lieutenant," replied Pierre 
Bourdier. " Confess that I didn't play my part badly. " 

" You deceived me completely." 

" You are not the only one, for I have played the same 
trick on the Prussians more than once. It's an accomplish- 
ment my father taught me. " 



308 THE ItED BAND. 

"But there was another owl up there in the branches, 
and—" 

" Oh, that owl was my friend Sarrazin. He wanted to 
warn me that he was at his post, but he stopped his song to 
give me to understand that I must be on my guard. If 
you hadn't been here he would have screeched three times 
instead of qnce. Not badly planned, ehr" added Bourdier, 
who certainly had cause to feel somewhat elated. 

" It is wonderful," replied Eoger, " and with your valu- 
able assistance I really begin to think that we shall succeed 
in reaching Paris." 

" Now we have reached the home of my old friend here 
you need feel no uneasiness. You will have an opportunity 
to make his acquaintance to-day, and you will see that he 
can do something more than play owl. He is equal to three 
of me in outwitting the Prussians. This is no time for com- 
pliments, however, but rather for the command: ' Forward, 
march!' " 

" Not a Prussian within half a league of us, and fifty 
minutes of darkness at our disposal," said the new guide in 
the tone of a sergeant making his report. 

" But how about the beggar boy who was going to betray 
us to the enemy?" inquired Eoger, remembering the scare 
the squad of cavalry had caused him. 

" He won't trouble us any more," replied the pretended 
peddler, laconically. 

"What! You—" 

" I'll tell you all about it when we reach a place of safety. 
Now you had better wake the young lady so we can be off. " 

The suggestion was unnecessary, for Eegina was already 
on her feet preparing to resume her journey as composedly 
as if she had heard the whole conversation. Indeed, there 
were times when one was almost tempted to believe that 
her infirmity was only feigned. 

" But see, the child is ready!" exclaimed Pierre Bour- 
dier. " We shall not have the trouble of waking her." 



5CHE EEb BANC. 309 

Regina surveyed the new-comer without the slightest 
astonishment, but Father Sarrazin did not seem to share 
her indifference. From his perch in the tree-top he had 
witnessed the arrival of the fugitives and their preparations 
for a halt, but he could not distinguish their features. 

Now, on finding himself for the first time face to face 
with the young girl, he began to stare at her with evident 
curiosity. 

Even now he could not see her face distinctly in the 
darkness, but nevertheless he began to stare at her with a 
persistency which Eoger could not fail to notice. 

" Are we far from your house? " inquired Pierre Bourdier, 
turning to Sarrazin. 

" It will take us about three quarters of an hour to reach 
it. Daylight will overtake us on the way. " 

" Is your mill occupied now?" 

" Yes, five soldiers are quartered there. Two of them 
take turns in guarding the bridge. The three who are not 
on guard spend their nights in drinking, and it is more 
than likely that we shall find them under the table when 
we get there." 

" Well, how about the daily inspections now?" 

" Oh, we don't have them very often, but an officer 
drops down upon us occasionally." 

" Do they examine the papers closely?" 

" That depends. There's one big gendarme who knows 
a little French, and who tries to make people believe he 
reads it very well. It is not a difficult matter to deceive 
him. He allowed a messenger from Tours to pass last 
week without a word, though in spite of his linsey suit and 
whip be looked no more like a wagoner than I look like a 
bishop. " 

" "What became of the messenger who left a week before 
I did?" interrupted Pierre Bourdier. " Did he reach Paris 
safely?" 
■. "I heard that he was shot near Argenteuil," replied 



310 THE BED BAND. 

Father Sarrazin as unconcernedly as if he was alluding to 
some accident that had befallen a carriage. 

"Indeed!" responded the pretended peddler with the 
same composure. 

" Besides the big gendarme," continued Sarrazin, 
" there sometimes comes a little fellow who wears glasses. 
He is as cunning as a monkey, and it's no easy matter to 
hoodwink him, I can tell you. " 

" We'll do it all the same, if necessary, though," replied 
Bourdier. "But we must talk the matter over and see 
where we stand. Have you a passport?" he added, turn- 
ing to the lieutenant. 

" No," replied Eoger, dejectedly. 

" I suspected as much when you questioned me on the 
subject in the hut." 

" All this young girl was able to do was to procure my 
clothing and this peddler's pack," remarked the lieu- 
tenant. 

" It is very unfortunate. A man who is running about 
from fair to fair doesn't travel without papers." 

" You see that we shall be a great hinderance to you, 
sir," said the officer, " and it would be better for us to 
part than to increase your danger." 

" Such a thing is not to be thought of," exclaimed 
Bourdier. " We will get around the difficulty somehow. 
Father Sarrazin can pass you off as a new apprentice, and 
the young lady as a servant he just hired in Poissy." 

" Yes, that might do," replied tbe peasant, laconically, 
though he had not once taken his eyes off Begina. 

" That is settled then, though we must explain the situa- 
tion to the girl, and it is no easy matter to talk with a deaf 
mute at night. ' ' 

" What! she is a deaf mute!" interrupted Father Sar- 
razin, evidently much surprised. 

"Oh! that fact need give you no uneasiness," replied 
Roger. " She is so clever that she seems to divine all she 



THE REP BAND. 311 

can not hear, and I will take it upon myself to explain the 
situation to her. " 

" Very well; lead the way, then, my good Sarrazin." 

They all walked on in silence to the edge of the forest, 
and then through several large fields, until they reached 
the top of a hill that commanded an extensive view of the 
surrounding country, now distinctly visible in the cold gray 
light of dawn. 

Before them, and as far as the eye could reach, extended 
one of those immense plains that surround the city of Paris. 
To the left was a line of hills that diminished in height to- 
ward the north-east. On the right, in the distance, towered 
Mount Valerin, whose summit was crowned with the white 
smoke of the morning cannonade. The Seine flowed slowly 
along at the foot of this natural terrace and separated 
two large^ villages built almost directly opposite each 
other. 

" This is Maisons Laffitte, and the village over there, on 
the other side of the river, is Sartrouville," remarked 
Pierre Bourdier. 

" Is it there where we are going?" inquired Roger. 

" No, no; we should fall into the very midst of a Prussian 
division. There is Father Sarrazin's chateau/' he added, 
pointing to a small island that was lying at their feet. 

Looking in the direction indicated Boger perceived the 
red roof of a building constructed upon piers on an arm of 
the Seine. It was a mill, unquestionably, and its isolated 
situation rendered it an admirable hiding-place. 

Sartrouville was on the opposite side of the river, about 
a mile further down, but both banks of the river were now 
absolutely deserted. 

""We shall be there in ten minutes," added Bourdier, 
" and then we shall have all day to rest, for we won't make 
the great venture until evening. " 

Eoger now observed a fact that had escaped his notice in 
the darkness. The pretended peddler had his pack upon 



312 THE HED BAND. 

his shoulders, so he must have found time to return to the 
hut for this indispensable accessory. 

The lieutenant's remorse was somewhat appeased by the 
discovery that he had not put his brave comrade to serious 
inconvenience; but he could not help admiring the wonder- 
ful presence of mind of this man who forgot nothing even 
in the midst of imminent danger. 

Father Sarrazin, who was at the head of the little pro-, 
cession, now conducted the party down a steep path that 
led directly to the mill, and Eoger, as he followed, had an 
opportunity to examine him at his leisure. 

He was a tall, old man, probably about sixty years of 
age, but as erect and sturdy as a poplar. In spite of the 
severe cold, he carried his broad-brimmed hat in his hand; 
but as he rarely turned to look behind him, the lieutenant 
could catch only an occasional glimpse of his sunburned 
face. Eoger could but admire his stalwart shoulders, how- 
ever, and no longer wondered at the strength he had dis- 
played under the beech-tree. 

"I see my boy standing in the mill door/' remarked 
Father Sarrazin, " and that is a sure sign the Prussian in- 
spector is here." 

" "Well, it is understood, is it not, that you have just 
brought a new apprentice and a servant from the other 
side of the forest, and that you picked me up pn the road." 

"I'm afraid this story will hardly do." 

" Why?" 

" On account of the deaf and dumb girl. " 

" You can say that she is a relative of your deceased 
wife, and that you have taken her out of charity." 

" "Well, we haven't time to invent any other story; be- 
sides, if it is the big gendarme that happens to be here we 
can make him believe almost anything." 

" You understand, comrade?" asked Bourdier, turning 
to Roger. 

"Yes, and I'll do my best." - 



THE HED BAND. 313 

" Say as little a6 possible, and let me do the talking." 
This rapid exchange of warnings had brought the travel- 
ers to the river bank. The mill stood directly in front of 
them, built upon a small wooded island that was separated 
from the shore by a narrow inlet over which a rough bridge 
had been constructed. 

A stout, ruddy-faced boy, clad in a gray blouse, was 
standing in the door-way, tranquilly smoking his pipe. He 
stood with his arms folded and his eyes turned heavenward, 
like a philosopher who is troubling himself very little about 
the affairs of this world, and though he had certainly per- 
ceived his employer and his companions, he did not move a 
muscle. 

" Well, Jack," cried Father Sarrazin, "is there any- 
thing new at the mill?" 

" Nothing, master," replied the boy, with a strong Nor- 
man accent. 

" And how about the Prussians?" inquired the miller, 
lowering his voice. 

" They have been lying under the table ever since last 
evening, but that old fox has just come." 

" Confound the luck!" muttered Father Sarrazin. 
"So it is the man with the spectacles that we have to 
contend with, I suppose?" remarked Pierre Bourdier. 
"The same." 

" Well, let us keep our eyes open, and hold our 
tongues/' responded the pretended peddler. 
" Where is he now?" inquired the miller. 
" He aske'i me where you where, so I told him you had 
oone to Acheres, but that you would be back this morning. 
He growled awhile, and then said he would go and take a 
look around the island while he was waiting for you." 

" Very well, let's get inside as quick as we can," replied 
the miller. " If he don't return too soon we shall be all 
right. " 
When Jack had closed the door of this primitive abode, 



314 THE WED BAND. 

the fugitives found themselves in a long, low room, lighted 
by a single window. A tallow-candle placed in a bottle 
had just burned itself out upon the long table loaded with 
glasses and empty bottles, that stood in the middle of the 
room. A pile of muskets, sabers, and belts in a corner 
testified to the presence of hostile soldiers, though only the 
soles of their boots and the tops of their caps were 
visible. 

Jack had not exaggerated. The Prussians were, indeed, 
sound asleep under the table. There were three of them, 
so far as one could judge, and their loud snoring showed 
that one had nothing to fear from them at present. Satis- 
fied of this fact, the miller turned to Jack, and said, hastily: 

" Show this lady and gentleman up to the blue chamber/' 

As he spoke, he pointed to a ladder at the further end of 
the room, which seemed to lead to a loft overhead. 

The lieutenant, disconcerted by this abrupt decision, ap- 
peared to hesitate, but as Eegina already had one foot on 
the first round of the ladder, he concluded to follow her. 

On reaching the loft he saw that it was only the entrance 
into a long, narrow passage-way. As the fugitives traversed 
the loose boards that formed the floor of this passage, under 
the guidance of Jack, Koger caught a glimpse of the big 
mill-stones and the hopper below. They were consequently 
directly over the mill proper, and the lieutenant was won- 
dering where this corridor would take them when their 
guide paused and placed his hand upon the partition. 

A panel immediately flew open, revealing a long and nar- 
row chamber. 

"Step inside with the young lady, and keep very quiet/ ' 
said the miller's boy, laconically; and they had scarcely 
done so before the panel closed behind them. 

To Koger's great surprise, the room, though it had no 
window, was not dark, for a small sky-light in the middle 
of the ceiling admitted the gray light of the winter's day. 

This singular hiding-place contained a bed with blue 



THE RED BAND. 315 

serge hangings, three or four old arm-chairs, and a pine 
table. 

Eegina manifested no emotion or surprise, and her com- 
panion even fancied he could discern an expression of sup- 
pressed joy upon her face; but she quietly deposited her 
satchel on the floor, seated herself in one of the arm-chairs, 
and closed her eyes. 

" She is overcome with fatigue/' thought the lieutenant, 
and he firmly resolved not to disturb her slumbers. 

He walked around the room on tiptoe, and was surprised 
to see that it seemed to have been recently occupied, for 
several cigar-stumps that were lying about the apartment, 
a pipe that was upon the table, and an empty cup that 
seemed to have contained coffee testified to the recent de- 
parture of some occupant of this retreat. 

Roger asked himself with no little uneasiness if his cap- 
tivity was likely to be a long one, and what measures his 
new friends would take to get rid of the Prussians. 

He dared not even think of the probable consequences of 
the perilous undertaking in which he had embarked. His 
life and that of Eegina were now in the hands of the man 
who had undertaken to save them; but he was ready to 
suffer anything and brave anything if he might only see 
Renee de Saint Senier again. 



CHAPTER XV 

While Roger was thus engrossed with thoughts of his 
beautiful cousin, the sound of a familiar voice reached his 
ears, and on approaching the partition to ascertain whence 
this sound proceeded, he discovered that there were several 
holes in the floor through which he could see and hear what 
was passing in the room below, where he had left his guide. 
So he looked and listened. 

The miller and the pretended peddler were talking with 



316 THE RED BAND. 

a pompous personage whom Eoger instantly recognized 
from the description Father Sarrazin had given of him, for 
he was short and thin, and a pair of spectacles adorned his 
pointed nose. 

The conversation had but just begun, but it had already 
become very animated. 

" Where did you meet this man?" inquired the Prussian, 
in tolerably good French, but with a strong German accent. 

" On the road, as I was returning from Poissy, where I 
went to collect some money that was due me. " 

" That is all very well, but why did you bring him home 
with you? Are you keeping a tavern now?" 

" For your soldiers, yes," replied the miller, sulkily. 
" They certainly drink often enough at my house without 
paying." 

"You will be repaid from the indemnity that is levied 
upon France when Paris is taken/ ' replied the Prussian, 
majestically. 

" I shall have to wait a long time, then." 

Father Sarrazin could not deny himself the gratification 
of this reply, but it must have been very displeasing to the 
Prussian, for it was in a tone of intense acerbity that he re- 
peated the question: 

" What brought this man to your house?" 

" He came to sell me some cloth that I need for myself 
and my boy. Don't you see that he is a peddler?" 

"Cloth! Why, you could buy that at Maisons at the 
establishment of my friend Kiintz, who has a fine assort- 
ment of Silesian cloths." 

" If you think I have the money to pay for foreign goods 
you are very much mistaken. I'm not such an idiot. I've 
Veen dealing with Pierre Bourdier here for five years, at 
least, and know that he won't cheat me, while your man- 
Well, the less said about him the better." 

" You are very much mistaken. My friend Kiintz would 
not have charged yow any more for it, " interrupted th§ 



THE RED BAND. 317 

Prussian, who probably had an interest in his friend's busi- 
ness. 

''* Possibly not; but I prefer to deal with one of my own 
countrymen. ' ' 

The subject of this conversation had as yet taken no part 
in it, but was sitting astride a chair, tranquilly rolling a 
cigarette, and this fact struck Roger, who had never seen 
him smoke anything but a pipe before. 

The spy, seeing that no further information was to be ex- 
torted from the miller, now turned abruptly to Pierre Bour- 
dier. 

" Well, my good fellow, did you have a pretty fair run 
of business at Saint Germain?'' he inquired, with an affecta- 
tion of friendliness. 

The trap was too palpable for the messenger to fall into 
it. 

" I did not come round that way; I am just from Pois- 
sy," he replied, promptly. 

" And where are you bound?" 

'"' I haven't decided yet whether I shall spend the night 
at Maisons or go down as far as Herblay. You have some 
troops near Pontoise, and perhaps I should be able to sell 
them some goods." 

" You had better come and have a talk with my friend 
Kilutz. You may be able to sell him a good part of your 
merchandise." 

" I'll think about it," replied the pretended peddler, 
while Sarrazin muttered : 

'"' He'll take your goods; there's no doubt of that, but as 
for paying for them, that's a very different matter." 

" I suppose you have a passport, my friend?" said the 
Prussian, ignoring the miller's remark. 

•' If I hadn't I should have been in prison long ago. I 
have been asked to show it at least a dozen times since I 
left Evreux, a week ago. " 

" "Will you show it to me?" 

■;-SM half. 



318 THE BED BAND. 

"With pleasure/' replied the messenger, drawing a 
shabby wallet from his pocket, and quietly handing it to the 
commissioner. 

The situation was becoming alarming, and Roger trem- 
bled as he recollected that his brave friend could not have 
had time to get rid of his dispatches before the spy's en- 
trance. 

" If that scoundrel searches him, he is lost," Eoger said 
to himself. 

" Bourdier — Pierre," spelled out the commissioner, " on 
his way to Beauvais. It has two indorsements upon it, so 
you are all right/' he added, returning the wallet. " Now 
I should like to see the contents of your pack, merely for 
form's sake. " 

" As you please," said the pretended peddler, beginning 
to unstrap his heavy pack. 

" His papers are certainly not concealed there/' thought 
Eoger, somewhat reassured by the turn affairs had 
taken. 

Forgetting the dignity his shoulder-straps conferred upon 
him, the Prussian knelt and assisted Bourdier in emptying 
his pack. The pieces of cloth and of calico were all shaken 
out, the red and yellow handkerchiefs were unfolded, 
shaken and carefully turned over. The messenger of the 
Army of the Loire submitted to this examination with the 
best possible grace, occasionally calling the miller's atten- 
tion to the merits of some particular article of merchandise, 
and playing his part so well that Eoger was overcome with 
admiration. 

" Now, my worthy friend, I shall be obliged to examine 
your clothing/ ' remarked the Prussian, when the examina- 
tion of the pack was concluded. "It's a mere form, of 
course, and I must also request you to take off your shoes, 
and—" 

" In short, to undress myself," interrupted the pretend- 
ed peddler, coolly. " It isn't very warm weather, but I 



THE RED BAND. 319 

know that is the German fashion of doing things; so I'll 
have to make the best of it/' 

lloger's blood curdled in his veins when he saw his friend 
remove his blouse. 

" It won't take long," said the Prussian, blandly. 

" Well, just give me time to light a cigarette- That will 
help to keep me warm," replied Bourdier, laughing. 

As he spoke, he drew from his pocket a package of to- 
bacco and a tiny blank book from which he detached a leaf. 

" Hand me that book," said the spy, his small gray eyes 
gleaming eagerly through his spectacles. 

"It is only some pure linen paper- that I bought in 
Kouen," said Bourdier, passing the little bookto the Prussian. 

Boger, who did not miss a single detail of this scene, 
fancied that the hand of the pretended peddler trembled 
slightly, and that his cheeks lost a little of their ruddiness. 

At the same instant, the miller rose from the stool on 
which he had been sitting, and took a step forward. 

As he did so, he slipped his hand under his blouse, and 
his features assumed a peculiar expression. 

The Prussian did not notice the fact, however, for he had 
taken the little blank book and was examining it with the 
closest attention. While he was thus engaged, the messen- 
ger from the Army of the Loire leisurely rolled up the leaf 
he had detached, and after manufacturing a very neat cig- 
arette, he placed it between his lips, and began to fumble 
about in his pocket for a match. 

" Shall I make you one?" he asked tranquilly. 

" No, thank you; I never smoke anything but a pipe/' 
growled the Teuton, who seemed greatly disappointed at 
his failure to find anything of a compromising nature. 

" Did you suppose there was anything contraband in my 
blank book?" asked Bourdier, rather sullenly. 

" No; but I like to examine thoroughly when I examine 
at all. You Frenchmen are so sly that I'm always on the 
lookout for you," replied the Prussian. 



OtV THE BED BAKD. 

He concluded to return the innocent blank book to its 
owner, however, and the pretended peddler slipped it into 
his waistcoat-pocket, remarking: 

" Oh, I understand! You are looking for letters and dis- 
patches. I have heard that there are men who carry them 
about sewed up in their clothing. You need have no fears 
of my doing anything like that. I set too much value on 
my life." 

As he spoke he took his cigarette between his middle 
and forefinger. 

".You are right, my friend/' said the spy, blandly. " If 
I found a single line of writing anywhere about your person 
I should be obliged to send you to the commandant at 
Maisons, and he would have you shot without any cere- 
mony. " 

" You won't be put to that trouble, I assure you," re- 
plied Bourdier. " But what a pity it is that I've lost my 
matches," he added, placing his cigarette behind his ear, 
as a book-keeper does his pen. 

" You can have your smoke by and by," interposed 
Father Sarrazin. " You must remember that this gentle- 
man is waiting for you to undress." 

" That is true; I had forgotten it," replied the messen- 
ger, with the most natural air imaginable. " I won't be 
long now." 

And he began to divest himself of his garments with the 
methodical slowness peculiar to peasants. 

As each garment was removed the Prussian seized it, and 
subjected it to a rigorous examination. The pockets were 
emptied, the linings were ripped from the outside, the 
sleeves turned inside out, and the buttons carefully tested 
to see if they were hollow. Even the soles and heels of the 
peddler's shoes were probed with a small pointed instru- 
ment that the Prussians carried about with them for this 
purpose. 

Roger watched the whole singular performance w:fch the 



THE RED BAND. 



noi 



closest attention, but the perfect calmness with which 
Pierre Bourdier witnessed the proceedings reassured the 
lieutenant in regard to the result, though he coidd not im- 
agine how the messenger had managed to conceal the dis- 
patches from the Prussian. 

"He must have found some way of getting them into 
the miller's hands/' he thought. 

The brave messenger dressed himself with the same de- 
liberation he had displayed in undressing, remarking very 
good-naturedly: 

" Well, captain, aren't you going to pay for some hot 
punch to cure the cold you have made me take. This mill 
of yours isn't a very warm place, Father Sarrazin. " 

" We'll see," replied the Prussian. " At all events, you 
had better accompany me down to Maisons, and have a lit- 
tle talk with my friend Kiintz about business matters. " 

"I'm sure I've no objections," Bourdier answered. 
" My friend Sarrazin here is in no hurry, and we can finish 
our trade this evening just as well as this morning." 

As soon as he had put on his blouse he proceeded to 
rearrange his pack. 

Eoger was not prepared for this prompt acceptance of the 
Prussian's invitation, but he finally concluded that the 
messenger must have his plans, and he had already given 
abundant evidence of his ability to take care of himself. 

" I am ready," he said, after a moment, shouldering his 
pack. 

"Very well, we'll be off, then," said the Prussian. 
" Give me just a moment to say a word or two to our good 
friend, the miller. In the first place, Father Sarrazin, I 
must request you to give these soldiers no more liquor. " 

" But how can I help it? When I refuse them liquor 
they threaten to burst open the door of my cellar. " 

" They're a set of drunken scoundrels, and I shall report 
them to the commandant, and he will see that they are 
punished when the other guard relieves them to-morrow. 



?>%% T11K l;.Kl) JiAND. 

I noticed, too, as I walked around tlio island just now, that 
tho ropo at the lorry lias not boon removed. I shall send 
some men to unfasten it and tako it to tlio commandant. 
It may bo of sorvico to our pontoniors, l)esidoH, you might 
bo tempted to make use of it in crossing tho river." 

" Crossing the river? In what, pray? You have taken 
away the boat, and unless one is a bird—-" 

" In the meantime J shall station u sentinel on tlio river 
bank,'' continued the imperturbable Prussian, "and sball 
{five him orders to lire upon any one who approaches it." 

Tho miller shrugged his shoulders. 

" I warn you so you may avoid any accident," added tho 
Prussian, with a malicious smile. 

After uttering this warning, which sounded very like a 
threat, ho said a few words to the soldiers; then, with iron- 
ical politeness he motioned Pierre P>ourdior to precede him 
to the door, and left the room with measured tread. 

" ]le is taking Pourdicr to prison," thought Pogor, and 
tho conjecture seemed extremely probable. 

An hour probably passed in. thinking over this adventure 
and in gazing alternately at Kegina, who was still asleep, 
and then down into the room below where Father ttarra/.in 
was moving about in the midst of the soldiers who had now 
recovered from their intoxication sulliciently to light their 
pipes, which they sat putting in silence. 

The lieutenant was beginning to wonder what had be- 
come of the miller's boy when he saw the door of the mill 
open and the lad enter, pushing in front of him a ragged 
urchin whom .Roger instantly recognized. 

" Tho beggar boy!" muttered linger. 

It was indeed he, looking even more dirty and ragged 
than on his first appearance, but wearing the same doleful 
and hypocritical expression of countenance. 

" What have you got there?" demanded Kathcr Sarra/in, 
who seemed to be in tho worst of humor since Pourdier's 
departure. 



THE KKD BAXD. 323 

" It's a young rascal I found sitting on the end of the 
bridge. He sajs he's hungry, and that he's got no place 
to sleep. " 

" That is no concern of mine/' growled the miller. 
'"' One would soon be eaten out of house and home if one 
felt obliged to entertain all the vagabonds who are prowling 
about the country nowadays." 

" Oh, my kind sir, take pity on a poor unfortunate boy 
who hasn't had a mouthful to eat for two days," drawled 
the gamin, in his doleful, whining voice. 

" Do you live in this neighborhood?" 

" Xo; I am from Xormandy." 

" "Why didn't you stay there, then?" 

" The Prussians burned our house," replied the boy, 
though not without casting a side glanoe at the soldiers, 
who were smoking their pipes without troubling themselves 
in the least about this conversation, however. 

" The little wretch feels confident that they don't under- 
stand French," thought Boger. 

" But where are your relatives?" asked the miller, really 
touched now. 

"My father is in the army, and they've taken my poor 
mother to '"prison," said the young scoundrel, wiping his 
perfectly dry eyes. 

" Come, come, my child, don't cry, but tell me where 
you came from, and where you are going," said the kind- 
hearted miller. 

"I've begged my way from Gisors, and I'm going 
straight on until I can find work." 

" What can you do?" 

" At home I minded the cows, but I could work in your 
mill, I am sure. " 

" Well," said Father Sarrazin, after a moment's reflec- 
tion, " the mill is not running now, and I need no assistant 
but Jack here, but it shall never be said that I allowed a 
soldier's son to perish of hunger. ' ' 



324 THE RED BAND. 

" If lie keeps the boy we are lost," muttered Roger, who 
had listened to this conversation with the liveliest appre- 
hensions. 

" Take him to the pantry, Jack, and give him a big 
piece of bread, and something to drink/'' said the 
miller. 

" Thank you, my kind sir," drawled the beggar, follow- 
ing Jack, who seemed to share his master's feeling of sym- 
pathy. 

The Prussians had taken no apparent notice of the scene, 
but as soon as the boy and his guide left the room they ex- 
changed several remarks, the meaning of which Roger did 
not understand, unfortunately. As for Father Sarrazin, 
he wore the satisfied air of a man who has just performed 
a worthy action, but never had the lieutenant experienced a 
greater feeling of perplexity, for he perceived the danger, 
but saw no way of averting it. 

Father Sarrazin had never seen the young rascal before, 
and evidently had no idea of his real character, but Roger 
could not doubt that the boy's object in seeking an asylum 
at the mill was to perpetrate some act of treachery. A 
word to the miller would have sufficed to put him on his 
guard, but how was he to say this word? 

To call to the miller was out of the question, as this 
would reveal Roger's presence to the Germans, so he would 
be obliged to wait until some one came to release him, and 
how could he toll when that would be? 

Regina continued to sleep on peacefully, and Roger could 
not bear the thought of waking her. 

" She does not know that death is perhaps near her," 
ihought the lieutenant, " but she will hear of the danger 
that threatens us soon enough." 

And feeling greatly fatigued himself, he stretched himself 
out upon the bed at the further end of the room, and began 
to reflect upon their strange situation. 

This ominous reappearance of the mendicant seemed in- 



THE RED BAND. 325 

explicable to him, especially as he had supposed from 
Bourdier's rather curt replies that they were rid of the 
little wretch forever. 

The enforced departure of the pretended peddler was nob 
reassuring by any means, and this strange combination of 
circumstances was certainly sufficiently ominous to trouble 
the most sanguine mind, but Eoger finally comforted him- 
self with the thought that Providence had not entirely 
abandoned them, as the traitor, if he had arrived an hour 
sooner, would have met the pretended peddler and certain- 
ly denounced him. 

But the peril that now threatened them was no less 
great, for if Pierre Bourdier should return he would find 
himself face to face with this young vagabond, and a failure 
to return would complicate matters terribly. 

The lieutenant had only a very vague idea of the route 
they would have to take to reach Paris. He knew that he 
would be obliged to cross the Seine at least twice, but how 
was he to cross a river swollen by the winter rains and 
guarded by Prussians sentinels? 

Though he tried hard to solve this difficult problem he 
utterly failed in the attempt, and gradually an intense 
drowsiness stole over him, and he at last fell asleep, mur- 
muring the names of Eenee and Eegina. 

When he woke night had come. 

A hand laid gently upon his shoulder made him open his 
eyes, and as he had been a prey to dire misgivings when he 
fell asleep his first thought when he woke was that an 
enemy was standing over him, and his first impulse was to 
assume a defensive attitude, though he had the presence of 
mind to recollect that the Prussians were not far off, and 
that he must make no outcry. 

Profound darkness and absolute silence reigned around 
him, but a voice that he did not recognize at first finally 
put an end to his perplexity. 

" It is I," whispered the voice. 



326 THE RED BAND. 

" Who are you?" inquired Koger, only partially reassured 
by this vague announcement. 

"Bourdier, of course/ ' replied the voice, in the same tone. 

" The peddler!" exclaimed the astonished lieutenant. 

" Hush! not so loud. The walls have ears here." 

" You are right. But how glad I am to see you again. 
How did you manage to escape from that miserable spy?" 

" It cost me all my merchandise, for I was obliged to 
offer it to his friend Kiintz to propitiate him; but that 
doesn't matter, for the time of playing peddler is past, 
thank Heaven!" 

" What! have you abandoned all hope of reaching 
Paris?" 

" By no means; I hope to be there to-morrow. '' 

a With your dispatches?" 

" Most assuredly." 

" Were you really able to conceal them from the inspec- 
tor. It seemed to me this morning — " 

" That the inspector examined me from head to foot. 
So he did." 

" Is it possible that you had time to intrust them to the 
miller's keeping?" 

" No, the old scoundrel came into the room only a min- 
ute after you left it. " 

" But where did you hide your papers when you un- 
dressed?" 

" JPid you notice my cigarette?" 

" What! was that—" 

"Yes; the message that would have caused me to be 
shot without the slightest doubt was on the scrap of paper 
I quietly rolled up under his very nose. " 

" So that was what made you turn pale when he took 
the blank book." 

" I can't deny it. Even in these days one can't help 
feeling a little emotion when one realizes that at any mo- 
ment it may become necessary to use the knife. " 



THE llliii BAND. 327 

" Use the knife!" repeated Roger, utterly bewildered. 

" Yes," said the messenger, tranquilly. " Father Sar- 
razin, who was in my confidence, was already feeling for 
his under his blouse, and if the Prussian had made any 
attempt to touch the scrap of paper I had just rolled up he 
would have stabbed him to the heart." 

" And the soldiers!" 

' ' Oh, I should have sprung for their sabers, which were 
in a corner of the room, and I think that between us we 
should have succeeded in managing them; but such rows 
always make a good deal of noise, and I was glad to be 
spared the necessity." 

" God, indeed, seems to have been watching over us," 
murmured Roger, thinking of the terrible danger he had 
unconsciously run. 

" And He will watch over us until the end, you may rest 
assured." 

"I hope so, though I can not help wondering how, we 
are to make our escape from here." 

"I will attend to that. But where is the young lady?" 

The question reminded the lieutenant of a fact that his 
surprise and emotion had caused him to forget for an in- 
stant. He had left Regina sleeping in an arm-chair, and 
it was now time to wake her. But he was spared the 
trouble of seeking her in the darkness, for at the very mo- 
ment that Pierre Bourdier made the inquiry a slight press- 
ure of the hand warned Roger that Regina was standing 
beside him. 

" She is here," he hastened to reply, " and I will answer 
for her willingness and courage to brave any dangers to 
which we may be exposed in the future." 

"The first stage of our journey is probably the most 
difficult," replied the pretended peddler, " for we shall be 
obliged to cross the Seine only about ten yards from here. " 

" That is exactly what I thought; but I heard the Prus- 
sian say that all the boats had been taken away. " 



328 THE RED BAND. 

" If we only bad a few hours to spare there wouldn't be 
the slightest difficulty about it/' said Bourdier, without 
paying any apparent heed to the objection advanced by the 
lieutenant. 

"Why?" 

" The thermometer is falling rapidly, and T feel sure 
that by to-morrow morning the river will be frozen hard 
enough for us to cross dry-shod. But we can not wait for 
that, so we must devise some other way." 

" Some other way? There is none, or at least — " 

" There is a rope that my friend Sarrazin has taken care 
to preserve, and that may enable us to reach the other side." 

" I don't understand you." 

" My plan is very simple, however. All that will be re- 
quired is good strong hands, and that is why I asked if we 
couM depend upon your little friend here. I do not doubt 
her courage, but I am not sure of her strength." 

The programme which the messenger announced so tran- 
quilly was certainly of a nature to make the boldest heart 
quail, and the aerial voyage he wished to make was certain- 
ly not very well suited to a young girl, but a slight press- 
ure of the hand reminded Eoger that his companion had 
never been daunted by any obstacle. 

" I — I think she is quite capable of making the at- 
tempt," he stammered; " but have you considered well the 
other dangers that threaten us? — these soldiers, only a few 
feet from us, and the sentinels the inspector has stationed 
on the river bank at the very place where the rope is fast- 
ened, I heard him say." 

" Oh, Father Sarrazin and his boy will attend to them," 
said Pierre Bourdier, a little scornfully. " He has plenty 
of liquor on hand, and the three soldiers who are not on 
guard to-night are already sound asleep under the table, as 
drunk as drunk can be. As for the sentinels, the cold will 
keep them close prisoners in their boxes, besides, Jack will 
keep an eye on them." 



THE BED BAND. 329 

" But some one may warn them." 

" And who, pray? There are no traitors here that I 
know of." 

" You are very much mistaken; there is at least one. " 

" What do you mean?" 

" I mean that that wretched little beggar is here." 

" What! the boy that came to the hut?" 

" The same. He arrived about an hour after you left. " 

" It serves me right for not having crushed the little 
viper when I had him in my power. If I had only wrung 
his neck instead of gagging him and tying him to a tree 
he would not be playing the spy on us now. But why didn't 
Father Sarrazin send the young imp away?" 

" He did think of sending him away at first, but when 
he saw him cry and heard him declare that he was starv- 
ing he told his boy to give him something to eat and a 
place to sleep." 

" In that case he is probably somewhere about the house 
still." 

" That is only too certain." 

A profound silence followed this brief conversation. 
The messenger was trying to invent some means of avert- 
ing the probable consequences of this unfortunate compli- 
cation. 

" I have it!" exclaimed the worthy messenger. 

" What?" 

" A means of making our escape from here before that 
young imp of Satan can denounce us." 

" Heaven grant it!" 

" Do you know where Father Sarrazin sleeps?" 
" No; I was so overcome with fatigue that I fell asleep 
soon after that young scoundrel was intrusted to Jack's 
care, and I did not wake until just now." 

" Still, I have an idea where they put the boy to-night, 
and there is a possibility of our getting away without en- 
countering him, though it is more than likely that he will 



330 THE RED BAND. 

steal out aud wander around the mill some time during 
the night, so we must be ahead of him." 
" God grant that it is not too late already." 
" No, it is scarcely seven o'clock, and that is the supper 
hour here. The young scoundrel is probably engaged in 
eating his soup. " 

" But are you sure that he did not see you when you re- 
turned?" 

" Perfectly sure. As you may suppose, I didn't think it 
advisable to come in by the front door and exhibit myself 
to the Prussians. ' ' 

" But how did you get in?" 

" By means of a ladder on the outside of the house, for 
the dark passage has two outlets, as well as the room wo 
are in." 

" Two outlets,*' repeated Roger, who knew of none ex- 
cept the trap-door through which he had gained an en- 
trance. 

"Yes, and you have only to look up to see the one that 
we are going to use. " 

" What! do you mean that sky-light?" 
" Precisely. It seems to be intended for the use of cats 
rather than human beings; still, I didn't promise you a 
trip in a Pullman car. " 

" I am ready to*follovv you anywhere, and so is my com- 
panion," responded Roger, somewhat offended by this 
rather brusque language; " but I must admit that I do not 
understand your plan very clearly." 

" This sky-light opens upon the roof of a small wooden 
L that has been added to the mill. This same roof serves 
as a support for the rope formerly used at the ferry, tor 
this is one of the ferries where passengers are transported 
across the river by means of a cable. Do you begin to un- 
derstand my plan, now?" 

Roger understood it very well, but he was not a little in- 
clined to shrink from such an undertaking, especially as 



THE RED BAJTD. 331 

he did not believe Regiua's strength would be equal 
to it. 

" But the journey must be a long one, and attended with 
many difficulties, for the mill is not on the river proper," 
he remarked. 

" The mill isn't more than fifteen yards from the river, 
and the Seine is not very broad at this point." 

The lieutenant was too deeply engrossed in thought to 
make any response for some time, and Bourdief, misun* 
derstanding the cause of this silence, added ironically: 

" True, it is very deep." 

" A fall would be certain death," muttered Roger. 

"Listen, lieutenant," said the pretended peddler, curt- 
ly; " I have not the slightest intention of compelling you 
to accompany me, for if any misfortune should befall 
either you or the young girl, I should never forgive myself 
while I live, so you are at perfect liberty to follow me or to 
remain where you are. " 

" But how about yourself?" inquired Roger, timidly. 

" Oh, that is a very different matter. I must be in 
Paris to-morrow morning, or perish this night; but you are 
not the bearer of dispatches, and there is much less necessity 
for you to risk your own life. For that reason, unless your 
heart urges you to make the venture, I advise you to re- 
main here. Father Sarrazin will pay you a visit to-morrow 
morning; you can then tell him your story, and he will find 
a way to get you safely to Xormandy." 

The lieutenant's perplexity was great. He had to choose 
between almost certain death and a long series of perilous 
adventures. He would not have hesitated, however, had 
he been alone, but the idea of thus imperiling Eegina's life 
appalled him. 

" Under any other circumstances," continued Bourdier, 
in gentler tones, " I would change my own plans in order 
to keep your company and endeavor to be of service to 
vou a second time, but dntv forbids." 



332 THE RED BAND. 

These simple words touched Boger deeply. 

" After all, it was a mere chance that brought us to- 
gether," continued the brave messenger, " so we can part 
without having any cause to reproach ourselves; and if I 
perish by the way, I shall still have the consolation of 
■ knowing that I have been of service to a French officer." 

This was too much. The lieutenant could not withstand 
the recollection Pierre Bourdier had just invoked. 

He thought of the scenes in the forest, and spurned the 
idea of separating his fortunes from those of his preserver. 
He had but one scruple. He felt anxious to consult 
Eegina, though his heart told him that the heroic young 
girl was ready to follow him, but the decision was such a 
momentous one that he still hesitated. 

Another pressure from the young girl's hand decided 
him, however, and he said, firmly: 

" I will not desert you. We will make the venture to- 
gether. " 

" Good!" exclaimed Bourdier, " I knew you would ac- 
company me." 

" Tell me what we have to do," said Eoger, quietly, for 
the decision once made, all his wonted coolness returned. 

" You will soon see." 

And without further delay, the messenger from the Army 
of the Loire began his preparations for- flight. 

The first thing to be done was to reach the sky-light, but 
though the ceiling was low, some kind of a stej)-ladder was 
absolutely necessary. 

The table and a chair furnished it, and in spite cf the 
darkness, Bourdier succeeded in moving and arranging 
these two articles of furniture without making the slightest 
noise. 

" There is your staircase," he said, gayly, " and I will 
show you the way up, though, as I suppose my friend Sar- 
razin has not dared to send you any dinner, I will first do 
what I can to atone for the omission." 



THE KED BAND. 333 

He placed a large cake of chocolate in Soger's hand, 
and a gourd filled with brandy. 

" You must divide with the young lady, and eat as we 
go along, but take a good drink of brandy before you 
start/' 

The lieutenant required no urging, for he felt that he 
really needed the stimulant. Nor did Regina refuse the 
gourd her friend held out to her, but bravely took a swal- 
low of the fiery liquid as if to prove that she was capable of 
manly deeds if need be. 

" By thus hastening the hour of our departure is there 
not some danger that we may upset the worthy miller's 
plans?" inquired Eoger. "It maybe that he has made 
arrangements to assist us by and by, and — " 

" Very possibly, but we must dispense with his assist- 
ance. The all important thing now is not to give this in- 
fernal scoundrel time to denounce us." 

" But how shall we carry our packs?" 

" We are not going to take them. " 

" But if we should be arrested?" 

" If we are arrested, we shall be shot," replied the mes- 
senger, with unruffled calmness; " but we are not going to 
be arrested. You see," he added, " that one can play the 
part of a peddler outside the Prussian lines, but within their 
lines it would be worse than useless to assume such a role, 
and we have too far to go to-night to hamper ourselves with 
any unnecessary burdens." 

" I think you are right," said Eoger, feeling that the 
hour had indeed come for them to burn their ships behind 
them. 

"And now I will lead the way," resumed Bourdier, 
climbing upon the table. " Let the young lady follow me 
and you bring up the rear. " 

In another minute Bourdier had cautiously lifted the 
sky-light and stepped out upon the roof. The heavens 
were clear and thickly studded with stars. 



334 THE RED BAND. 

" Pass up the girl," Pierre whispered, leaning over the 
edge of the opening. Eegina must have divined what was 
expected of her, for she was on the table before her friend 
had time to come to her assistance, and the rest of the 
ascent was accomplished easily and noiselessly. 

The fugitives found themselves upon a sort of platform 
exactly corresponding in size with the room below them. 

" Don't move," whispered Bourdier. " I want to recon 
noiter a little." 

As he spoke, he crawled softly to the edge of the roof, 
and for an instant Eoger was strongly tempted to follow 
him; but a gesture warned him that he was to remain ma 
tionless — a gesture that said as plainly as any words — 

' ' Have a care ! There is danger. ' ' 



CHAPTER XVI. 

The night was clear and very cold. From the place 
where he stood Eoger could not see what was going on close 
to the house, but he could plainly distinguish the trees on 
the right bank of the Seine. 

He could also hear the peculiar grating and crackling 
sound made by blocks of ice when they are brought in con- 
tact with one another by the current. 

The Seine, as Bourdier had said, was only a few yards 
from the mill: the wind was blowing from the north, but 
too feebly to drown the sounds of earth and river, and the 
conditions were anything but favorable. A tempest that 
would have tossed the branches wildly to and fro and cov- 
ered the sky with clouds would have made the venture of 
the fugitives much less dangerous. 

The brave messenger probably realized the difficulties of 
the undertaking more fully since he had climbed upon the 
roof, for his every movement was characterized by the 
utmost caution. Lying flat upon his stomach, with only 



THE RED BAND. 335 

his head projecting beyond the eaves, he seemed to be gaz- 
ing attentively at something on the ground below. 

The temperature was frigid, and though Roger was ac- 
customed to spending his nights in the open air, he soon 
felt that his limbs were becoming benumbed, and that it 
would be impossible for Kegina to endure this exposure 
long. At last, unable t'o bear the suspense any longer, the 
lieutenant resolved to join the pretended peddler, and 
creeping along with infinite care he finally succeeded in 
reaching the messenger's side. 

No sooner had he done so than these words were whis- 
pered softly in his ear: 

" Have you good eyesight?" 

"Yes." 

" Then look up the river bank on this side of the stream, 
and tell me what you see there." 

Both as a hunter and as a soldier Roger had had a host 
of opportunities to' test his powers of vision, but now the 
partial obscurity and the intense cold impaired his sight 
considerably; nevertheless, he fancied he could discern a 
tiny black speck in close proximity to three or four stunted 
trees on the left bank of the stream, a short distance from 
the mill, and after fixing his visual organs upon this tiny 
speck for several seconds he became satisfied that it was 
moving, though slowly, and, in fact, almost imperceptibly. 
Sometimes it even disappeared from sight altogether, but 
when it became visible again on6 could see that its position 
had undergone a change. 

»■ About fifty yards from the trees and a little to the left of 
them was a dark object that strongly resembled, at least in 
shape, the hut of a savage, and a careful scrutiny satisfied 
Roger that it was ve of those huts constructed' out of the 
branches of trees that were first introduced into Prance by 
the soldiers who had taken part in African campaigns. 

The Prussians, being eminently practical people, did not 
disdain to make use of them during their campaign; and 



336 THE BED BAND. 

Roger had come across them more than once. He conclud- 
ed, therefore, that the Prussian sentinel to whom the task 
of guarding the river had been intrusted, was probably con- 
cealed in this cabin. 

"Do you see it?" whispered Pierre Bourdier, suddenly. 

" What?" 

" The black speck that seems t6*be moving slowly toward 
the hut. I am satisfied now. It is that young imp of 
Satan. He scents blood, and so went out to prowl about 
the ferry, but seeing nothing, he has gone to warm himself 
in the hut with his friend the Prussian. This shows that 
he is ignorant of the fact that we are in the mill. If he 
knew it he would have summoned the enemy to search the 
house long before this." 

" I think you are right; but what are we to do?" 

" Depart!" 

" Depart!" repeated Eoger, forgetting to lower his voice 
in his astonishment. " Depart, when this young scoundrel 
may surprise us wheu we are half-way across the river." 

" We have no choice. Listen; the night will be long, I 
admit; but a journey from here to Paris is not a promenade 
through the Bois, so we can not afford to waste any time. " 

" That is true; but—" 

" But now it is not at all probable that the little wretch 
will make his appearance again for hours. Vipers love 
warmth; and he is not likely to leave it to make another 
round until just before midnight. This, then, is the best 
time for our flight, and we must take advantage of it. " 

The lieutenant admitted the justice of this reasoning; but 
the nearer the moment of peril approached the more he 
trembled for Eegina. 

" I will go first," continued Bourdier; " you will send 
the girl next, and you will constitute the rear guard." 

"So be it." 

" I will explain why I wish this order observed," con- 
tinued Bourdier. " If the opposite bank of the river is 



THE RED BAND. 337 

guarded, the first one to cross will be caught; and it had 
better be me than you. If any accident befalls me you 
will still have it in your power to return to your hiding- 
place and wait until Father Sarrazin comes to release you. " 

" Thank you, "said Soger, moved almost to tears by this 
generosity. 

" You can thank me when we get to Paris. Now let us 
complete our arrangements. It will take me nearly ten 
minutes to reach the opposite shore, so you had better send 
the girl just a quarter of an hour after I start. If I am 
unfortunate enough to be arrested on reaching land, I will 
shout three times to warn you. " 

And without waiting for any reply the intrepid Bourdier 
seized the rope and started on his dangerous journey. 
Eoger had neglected to ask him the best mode of accom- 
plishing it; and though he was anxious to rejoin Regina, he 
deemed it advisable to remain upon the edge of the roof to 
see how Bourdier managed. 

The latter seemed to be endowed with a remarkable talent 
for this kind of exercise, for he advanced with wonderful 
rapidity. 

With both hands tightly clutching the rope, about which 
he had crossed his legs, he dragged himself along like a ser- 
pent, and did it so dexterously that the frail support 
scarcely moved. 

The iron staple to which the rope was attached, and 
which was firmly imbedded in the roof, emitted a slight 
creaking sound when Bourdier first seized the rope, but the 
strain upon it once regulated, all became quiet again. 

The critical moment of the transit would soon come, 
however, the moment when" the row of willows was to be 
crossed, and Pierre Bourdier was fast approaching this 
dangerous spot. 

The cable, though raised to a very considerable height 
above the ground at the end, of course descended gradually 
from that point to the river; and at the wharf, where the. 



338 THE RED BAND. 

ferry-boat had been moored, the rope was only about five 
and a half feet from the ground, i 

Roger, pale with anxiety, saw the messenger disappear 
behind the willows, around which the little spy had vanished 
a few: minutes before. 

His very breath seemed to leave him, so terrible was the 
suspense; but fortunately it was of short duration. Indeed, 
scarcely twenty seconds had elapsed before he saw his in- 
trepid companion emerge from behind the curtain of the 
willows, and Roger lifted his heart in fervent prayer to God 
to protect tbe courageous man who was thus imperiling his 
life for the sake of his native land. 

God heard the prayer, for the form of the messenger was 
soon lost in the protecting shadow of the opposite bank. 

Joy filled the heart of the lieutenant, for the profound 
silence that brooded over the stream was a certain indica- 
tion of success. 

" If any misfortune had befallen him/' thought Roger, 
" I should have known it before this time. If he had: en- 
countered one of the enemy on the opposite shore he would 
have shouted to me, and if his strength had failed him and 
he had fallen, I should have heard the noise made by his fall. ' ' 

He listened a moment longer, but no sound broke the 
stillness of the night, and the lieutenant heaved a sigh of 
relief. 

The time for making the frightful venture had come for 
him — or rather for Regina — and even now. she stood beside 
him ready and waiting; but though the young girl evinced 
neither fear nor reluctance, the idea of allowing her to 
make the dangerous journey alone seemed a positive crime 
to him, and reflection only convinced him of the advantages 
of a plan that had previously occurred to him. 

' ' The rope is evidently strong enough to support the 
weight of two persons," thought the lieutenant; and he re- 
solved that nothing should prevent him from leaving the 
roof at the same time that the young girl did. 



THE KED BAND. 339 

" I would rather perish with her/' he murmured, " than 
remain here tortured by a thousand doubts and fears while 
she is hanging between life and death." 

This resolve once made, there was nothing to be done but 
to carry it into execution as quickly as possible, for a single 
moment of delay might prove fatal. 

But should he go first or follow the young girl along the 
rope? 

She decided the question. 

Turning, she lifted her face to his, and he, : understand- 
ing her motive, pressed a chaste kiss upon her brow — the 
first, and perhaps the last. 

Eegina received it with eyes downcast; but when" she 
lifted them again they shone with such brilliancy that one 
would have supposed that this salute, which might be one 
of farewell, had given her fresh courage. 

With wonderful celerity and skill she seized the rope and 
assumed a position the direct opposite of that ehosen by 
Bourdier — that is to say, with her feet first and her face 
turned toward the roof of the mill. .. 

The lieutenant had neither the time nor the means to in- 
dicate an easier mode of locomotion; besides, he fancied he 
understood the feeling that prompted the girl to turn her 
face toward him in this moment of supreme danger. 

"If we are to die," he thought, " we can at least ex- 
change a parting glance. " 

He, in turn, now ventured upon the rope, for she was 
already far enough off for him to be able to stretch his 
body out upon this slender support which sagged slightly on 
receiving this additional burden. 

The journey from the roof to the willows was accom- 
plished without accident; but on reaching this point the 
lieutenant perceived that the arm of the river which they 
had to cross was broad enough to terrify the most daring; 
and though he did not feel fatigued himself, it seemed to 
him that his companion was adyancing a little less rapidly. 



340 THE KED BAND. 

She reached the stream, however, without manifesting 
the slightest weakness or hesitation; and Koger began to 
take heart again. 

As he dragged himself slowly along after her he gazed 
around him, and had the inexpressible satisfaction of per- 
ceiving that no human being was visible upon the river 
bank. 

The sullen roar of the river nearly deafened him, accom- 
panied as it was by ominous cracking sounds as the blocks 
of ice that nearly covered its surface were swept swiftly 
along beneath him by the power of the current. Some- 
times, however, the whole mass paused, delayed by a col- 
lision with other floating blocks, only to resume its course 
as soon as the obstruction was removed; but it was very 
evident that the river would soon be frozen over entirely, 
and that by delaying their departure a few hours they would 
have been able to cross it on foot. 

Each moment brought the fugitives nearer to their goal; 
but each effort increased their fatigue. 

The cold was intense, and a keen wind was blowing from 
the north. Eoger felt his blood gradually freezing in his 
veins and his limbs becoming rigid; and he said to himself 
that Eegina's frail body could not endure such suffering 
long. 

They had reached the middle of the stream; but the re- 
mainder of the journey would be much more difficult. 
Just then Eoger cast a hurried glance behind him to see 
how much of the distance they had traversed, and as he did 
so he fancied he could see a human form moving about on 
the shore of the island. 

His position upon the rope did not allow him to prolong 
this examination, and turning his eyes from the shore he 
had left behind him he resumed his perilous journey; but 
either because the cold was gaining upon him or the dis- 
covery he had just made had unnerved him, he felt much 
less strong and supple. Nervous tremors traversed his be- 



THE RED BAND. 341 

numbed limbs, and he felt as if a thousand needles were 
being plunged into his flesh. In short, he recognized with 
terror the usual symptoms of cramp, and if they increased 
to the extent of paralyzing him he was lost. * 

The lieutenant, who was an excellent swimmer, knew by 
experience that absolute immobility was the only means of 
averting a danger of this kind. He accordingly paused to 
wait until the feeling had worn off, keeping his body in a 
horizontal position, with his head slightly thrown back. 

Regina's powers of vision must have been keen enough to 
make up for her inability to hear, and she must also have 
retained her presence of mind in a remarkable degree, for 
her companion had scarcely decided to pause before she fol- 
lowed his example. 

She did not seem at all exhausted by her prolonged and 
arduous efforts, and her eyes did not once wander from 
Eoger's drawn features. 

One might have supposed she was watching for the 
moment when she would be obliged to offer him assistance, 
and the lieutenant, in spite of his strength, seemed likely 
to require it. Cramp had not paralyzed him completely, 
but he was struggling against an enemy even more formid- 
able — the cold. 

So long as he had been straining every nerve to drag him- 
self along the rope, the exertion had kept his blood in rapid 
circulation; but as soon as he relaxed his efforts he was at 
the mercy of the bitter north wind. 

The death of so many French soldiers in Eussia was due 
to the same cause. During the disastrous retreat of 1812 
every man who paused fell asleep, and each soldier that 
fell asleep was a dead man. 

A few seconds more, and the lieutenant, overcome by the 
cold, would be sleeping forever in the Seine. 

His hands and knees still clutched the rope, it is true, 
but the bitter cold would unlock them and cast him into 
the watery depths below. 



MX THE BED BAND. 

This agony lasted less time than- it has taken to describe 
it, but it had a witness, and just as he was about to let go' 
the rope, Roger felt a hand laid upon his, and some hard 
object pressed against his set teeth. 

Instinctively he opened his lips, and a fiery liquid burned 
his palate and set his heart to throbbing violently. 

The dying man opened his eyes and uttered a cry of relief. 

He was saved. The girl had just poured a mouthful of 
the brandy from Pierre Bourdier's gourd between Roger's 
parted lips. 

Her devotion and energy had accomplished the wonder- 
ful feat of holding herself suspended from the rope with 
one hand, while with the other she raised the reviving cor- 
dial to her friend's lips. If Roger had been in a condition 
to really understand what had occurred, he would have been 
tempted to believe in some supernatural intervention if he 
had not recollected Regina's former calling, for only the 
most intrepid acrobat could have performed such a feat. 

The officer was not yet able, to collect his scattered 
thoughts, however, but in proportion as the exhilarating 
influence of the stimulant quickened his blood and relaxed 
his limbs, his mental powers returned, and his eyes were di- 
rected first upon the face of his faithful companion and 
then upon the right bank of the stream. 

A loud and sudden shout restored his self-possession com- 
pletely. It came from the left bank, and it was impossible 
for any soldier to mistake its character, even if it had not 
been followed by the shrill whistle of a bullet through the 
air, and a hurried glance back at the island showed him, 
through the slight fog, two shadowy forms moving about 
the hut. Consequently, there was little room for doubt 
that it was the Prussian sentinel accompanied by the little 
beggar. 

The danger was becoming so great that little chance of 
escape remained, but great as the peril was, Roger con- 
fronted it calmly. 



THE BED BAND. 343 

Cramp had overtaken him when, he was a little more 
than half-way across the stream, and only about fifty yards 
more were to be traversed to reach the right bank of the 
river, but this was the most difficult part of the journey, as 
the course of the rope was upward on nearing the shores as 
it was probably fastened to the trunk of some large tree. 

That shore remained silent, however, for the report had 
awakened only an echo. 

The lieutenant, who had now entirely recovered from his 
momentary weakness, felt sure that he had sufficient 
strength to reach the promised landj and Regina, who had 
seen the flash, even if she had not heard the report, had al- 
ready resumed her difficult journey with redoubled energy, 
being reassured now in regard to. her companion's welfare. 
The fugitives could scarcely hope that the Prussian would 
not repeat the shot; besides, his comrades could not: be far 
off, and if they rushed to the river bank to see what was 
the matter, as seemed only too probable, the aerial travelers 
would find themselves exposed to the fire of the entire party. 

A second shot resounded from the willows^ 

The aim was closer this time, and it must have struck 
the bank, for Roger heard a dull thud after the projectile 
whistled by, 

" The, third bullet will hit the mark," he thought. 
" Heaven grant it may be me that it strikes!" 

At that very instant the harsh voice of the young beggar 
reached Roger's ears. He could not distinguish the words, 
but the shrill, excited tones indicated that he was inciting 
the sentinel to renewed efforts. 

During the interval between the shots, the fugitives had 
traversed a distance of several yards, but the situation of 
the two seemed reversed now. 

It was the young girl who showed unmistakable signs of 
exhaustion, and it was the lieutenant, On the contrary, who 
watched over her. 

Suddenly he turned his head. . A violent oscillation of 



344 THE RED BAND. 

the rope had nearly precipitated them both into the 
Seine. 

" This time we are lost," said Roger, seeing the condi- 
tion of things on the island. 

The cries of the Prussian and the wretched little beggar 
must have attracted other soldiers to the spot, for quite a 
little group had collected around the willows, over which 
the rope passed. 

They were too far off, and the night was not sufficiently 
clear for Eoger to see what they were doing. The firing 
had ceased, however, either because the sentinel's stock of 
ammunition was exhausted, or because, discouraged by his 
failure, he had resolved to resort to some other means of 
accomplishing his purpose. 

The right bank was still too far off for the fugitives to 
have much chance of reaching it. In fact, the best of 
swimmers could not have contended with the current at this 
point, and even if Roger had been strong enough to make 
his way through the cold, turbulent water he would have 
been crushed by the blocks of floating ice. But after sway- 
ing violently to and fro for a moment, the cable ceased to 
oscillate. 

"What infernal scheme could the Prussians be meditating 
now? Roger thought, on perceiving a black speck detach 
itself from the line of trees. It seemed to be suspended in 
midair, and to be slowly advancing toward the fugitives. 

The cessation of the firing and that sudden oscillation of 
the rope were explained now. Evidently one of the hostile 
party had decided to follow the fugitives on their perilous 
journey. 

On perceiving this new danger, the lieutenant redoubled 
his efforts, for it had now become a question of speed. If 
they could reach the shore in advance of their pursuer, 
there was still some hope of their making their escape, for 
they could conceal themselves in the woods and finally make 
their way to the forest of Vesinet. 



THE RED BAND. 345 

Roger, summoning up all his energy, resolved to make one 
great effort, but on overtaking Kegina, he perceived that 
she was nearly fainting with exhaustion. Her face was livid, 
and she had closed her eyes. The change in her appearance 
frightened the young officer, who made a frantic effort to 
seize the gourd which was suspended from her neck. 

It was now his turn to come to the aid of the faithful 
friend who had saved his life only a few moments before; 
but he must have been less adroit than the young girl, for 
he had an immense amount of difficulty in getting a few 
drops of the brandy between her parted lips. He succeeded, 
however, and once more the stimulant produced its effect. 

Kegina revived, and again resumed her efforts to reach 
the shore, but it was very evident that her strength was 
failing fast and that she would not be able to continue this 
arduous journey much longer. 

Their enemy was all the while steadily advancing, and 
had gained at least twenty yards upon them during the 
young girl's partial fainting-fit. His body occupied too 
little space upon the rope to be that of a Prussian; besides, 
it was scarcely probable that a heavy soldier would have 
thus risked his life. The abominable little beggar was 
alone capable of such a feat, though Eoger wondered great- 
ly that a mere child, however malicious he might be, would 
carry his zeal so far as to thus endanger his life. 

These dosibts were soon dispelled, however. 

A shrill laugh resounded behind him, and a piercing 
voice cried: " Say! wait a minute, can't you?" 

Though the beggar had dropped his doleful whine com- 
pletely, there could be no mistake. It was certainly he who 
was crawling along the rope. He had all the suppleness as 
well as the craftiness of a serpent, and he was advancing 
rapidly. 

" The wretch is gaining upon us!" murmured Roger, 
perceiving that Regina's movements were becoming more 
and more difficult. 



346 THE BED BAND. 

As he continued his efforts to reach the shore, sustaining 
and encouraging his nearly exhausted companion, he con- 
soled himself by the thought that Pierre Bourdier must be 
concealed there on the shore, only a few steps from them; 
and for an instant he thoughfrof calling him, and was only 
prevented by an unwillingness to reveal his friend's pres- 
ence to the Prussians upon the island. 

" If we can reach the shore in time to hide from the lit- 
tle scoundrel it will be better to let them believe that we 
are alone," he thought. 

But the distance that separated them from their pursuer 
was sensibly diminishing, as well as Regina's strength, and 
Eoger began to wonder if it would not be advisable for him 
to await the j'oung scoundrel's approach. 

"I still have strength enough left to wring his neck> and 
throw him into the Seine," he thought. " The Prussians 
have ceased firing, and even if there should be a struggle, 
they will not dare to fire for fear of killing their spy." 

While he was thus debating in his own mind, the shrill 
voice of the young vagabond again broke the stillness of the 
night. 

" You won't wait for me, I see," he yelled; "but I'll 
overtake you, and kill you, all the same; for I have a pis- 
tol that my friend the Prussian loaned me, and it is loaded." 

The threat made Roger's blood curdle in his veins. He 
understood now why the Prussians had stopped firing. They 
wanted to have the pleasure oi seeing their paid assassin 
murder his compatriots. 

The voice rose again louder and even more piercing than 
before. It was evidently coming nearer. 

" I could kill you now, if I wanted to," it said; "but I 
had rather blow your brains out when I'm within arm's- 
length of you, as I shall then have the satisfaction of seeing 
your last grimace and the somersault you will make when 
you fall into the river!" 
- Roger ground his teeth in impotent rage. 



THE RED BAND. 34? 

It was useless to engage in a hopeless struggle. They 
must reach the shore, and reach it quickly, for the young 
fiend was gaining upon them with frightful rapidity. 

Eegina now seemed almost unable to sustain herself upon 
the rope, and with each movement her features contracted 
and her mouth opened convulsively, but the shore was now 
only about twenty yards from them. 

" There are six bullets in my pistol!" yelled the gamin. 
" The first is for you, and the second is for the girl." 

" She can not hear what he says, fortunately," thought 
the lieutenant. 

" I can see you now! I can see you, and I know you," 
continued the discordant voice. " It's of no use for you to 
make a fuss. You're goners, both of you!" 

Eegina was evidently struggling against the nervous pros- 
tration that had seized her She still dragged herself along, 
but only by fits and starts, and Eoger trembled lest the rope 
should escape from her rigid hands. They had made some 
progress, and the shore now rose before them dark and 
silent. 

" Bourdier!" called Eoger, in a smothered voice. 

He felt that Eegina 's life depended upon the next few 
minutes, and that the messenger might be of great assist- 
ance to him in saving her. 

" Yes; sing, old fellow!" yelled the frightful voice. 
" My pistol will play the accompaniment. " 

Eoger turned and distinctly saw the beggar raise his 
arm. At the same time he heard the sharp click of a re- 
volver. 

This time Eoger thought that all was over, and fervently 
prayed that the first bullet might be for him. 

" Then I at least shall be spared the anguish of seeing 
her die!" he muttered. 

The beggar lad kept his word, for a sharp report fol- 
lowed, and a bullet whistled through the air about two 
inches above the lieutenant's head. 



348 THE RED BAND. 

" I am still too far off, it seems/' shouted the would-be 
assassin, " but never mind, I shall lose nothing by wait- 
ing." Eoger knew that the young wretch was rapidly ap- 
proaching by the oscillations of the rope. He glanced behind 
him and saw that the distance that separated them had de- 
creased considerably, but at the same time he perceived 
that Eegina seemed to have suddenly regained her 
strength, and was now making considerable progress. 

The shore was not more than five or six yards from her 
now. One more effort, and she might succeed in reach- 
ing it. 

Eoger heard a malevolent hiss behind him, accompanied 
by the dread click of a revolver. For an instant he was 
strongly tempted to let go his hold upon the rope, for the 
shore was now so near that there was a possibility of reach- 
ing it, and great as was the danger of a fall into the icy 
and turbulent waters, it seemed better than this waiting 
for the young fiend's bullet to put an end to his existence. 

" Ah!" cried the little monster, who was now not more 
than three yards from him, " I have you now. I sha'n't 
miss you this time. " 

" Help, Bourdier, help!" cried the lieutenant, involun- 
tarily, as if sure that the messenger was there on the shore 
within reach of his voice. 

The words had scarcely left his lips when he felt the 
rope give way, and before he had time to understand what 
had happened, he was precipitated into the water. At 
first it seemed to him that he must be dead, and during 
the few seconds that elapsed before he rose to the surface, 
he really thought that the boy's bullet had hit him. When 
his head at last emerged from the water, and he was able 
to breathe again, he heard at the same time a horrible yell 
and a voice calling him by name. 

The voice was that of Pierre Bourdier. 

" Don't let go the rope!" he cried. 

Eoger now perceived, for the first time, that he had re» 



THE RED BAND. 349 

tamed his hold upon the rope when he fell, and that Bour- 
dier was holding fast to one end of it, even while he knelt 
upon the shore with his arms outstretched toward Eegina, 
who was almost within his reach. 

Eoger understood the situation now. Bourdier, who 
had been watching them from his hiding-place in the 
bushes on the river bank, had decided to cut the rope 
when he perceived the imminence of his friend's danger, 
but he had at the same time taken the precaution not to 
let go the end of it, and in his stalwart hands the bit of 
rope became a sure means of salvation. 

It had already proved so for Eegina, who had reached 
the shore, and was now lying exhausted on the bank. 

Eoger, who had fallen into the river a little further from 
the shore, had more of a journey to make; but seeing the 
girl out of danger, and the messenger standing ready to 
save him in his turn, he recovered his energy, and clutch- 
ing the rope which Pierre Bourdier had hastily tied around 
the trunk of a tree as soon as the rescue of Eegina was 
effected, he began to pull himself toward the shore, and 
after a minute or two of terrible effort and cruel suffering, 
for more than one block of floating ice tore his fingers and 
disfigured his face, he had the unspeakable satisfaction of 
gaining a foothold on dry land. 

"Thanks, Pierre/ ' he exclaimed, sinking down ex- 
hausted by the side of the young girl. 

"It isn't worth speaking of," replied the messenger, 
quietly, " but let us be off. This is no time for chat." 

A frightful cry suddenly resounded in Eoger's ears. ' 

" Help! help! I'm drowning!" cried a despairing voice. 

" It is the beggar!" the lieutenant exclaimed, springing 
to his feet. 

It was, indeed, he. The young scoundrel had not let go 
his hold on the rope when he fell into the river with those 
he was trying to murder; and now that the rope had been 
fastened around a tree, he was clinging to it with all the 



#50 THE RED SAND. 

energy of despair, and making frantic efforts to reach the 
shore. 

" Wait and I'll assist you a little/' muttered Bourdier, 
stooping to untie the knot he had tied around the trunk of 
the tree. 

Roger seized him by the arm. 

" Spare the wretch!" he faltered. 

" That monster!" exclaimed Bourdier, " never! I shall 
never cease to regret that I spared his life in the forest. " 

" Have mercy, my kind gentlemen!" shrieked the boy. 
"Oh, do not let me die!" 

" But I shall have to do it if only to prevent him from 
bringing the bullets of the Prussians down upon us with 
his cries. " 

" You see they have stopped firing entirely," said Eoger. 
" They think we are all drowned, and we can certainly 
spare the little wretch with perfect safety now." 

" You are mad!" exclaimed Bourdier. 

" Forgive me, my kind gentlemen, forgive me/' said the 
voice. " I will do nothing more to injure you! I was so 
poor, and they promised me money!" 

He had been steadily advancing, and was now only a 
few yards from the shore. 

" Spare his life," pleaded Eoger. " God has mercifully 
preserved us, and I should like to do a kind deed. ' ' 

"But don't you understand that if we should draw him 
out of the river he will only dog our footsteps and betray 



us again." 



" We can tie him." 

" Yes, as I did in the forest, to have him upon our 
track again in an hour. Ah! lieutenant, if you think we 
have nothing more to do you are very much mistaken. 
Why, this is nothing in comparison with the rest. We 
have about two leagues to travel through the Prussian lines 
and the Seine to cross again. " 
^ ' Mercy ! " shrieked the beggar. ' ' Mercv^ 1' 



i" 



THE KED BAND. 351 

" His cries rend my heart," said Eoger, " and it seems 
to me it would bring misfortune upon us if we should let 
him die." 

" I will serve you faithfully," cried the little wretch. 
" I will serve you as faithfully as I served the Prussians. 
I know all the roads and know where all their posts are — 
see if I don't. I will guide you anywhere — to Paris, if you 
like." 

" Did you hear that?" asked the lieutenant. 

" Yes, I see that the little wretch is setting another traj, 
for us," growled Bourdier. 

" I can't stand here and see him die like that," ex- 
claimed Eoger. " One can hardly fail to tell the truth 
when one is at the point of death, and I am going — " 

" To do what?" demanded the messenger, brusquely, 
seizing Eoger by the arm. 

" To offer him a hand," cried the lieutenant, making a 
rush for the river, and before the messenger had time to 
sto]} him he was leaning over the bank in the hope of sav- 
ing the little wretch who was now struggling among the 
blocks of floating ice close to the shore. 

" Help! my good sir, help! I can hold out no longer. 
My strength is failing!" 

"Give me your hand," cried Eoger, throwing himself 
lipon his knees. 

" I can't — I'm too far off!" cried the boy. 

The officer leaned as far as possible over the water and 
stretched out his arm. 

Almost instantly the fingers of the beggar lad clutched 
the sleeve of the lieutenant's blouse. 

" I have you at last!" cried the wretch. "I shall not 
die alone — " 

And he burst into a fiendish laugh. 

Eoger would not have had any difficulty in freeing him- 
self from the beggar's grasp if he had been differently 
situated, but when the young scoundrel so treacherously 



352 THE RED BAND. 

seized him, the kind-hearted officer was kneeling upon the 
river bank with his body projecting over the water, and 
both arms extended, so the shock made him lose his equili- 
brium and he fell face foremost into the water. 

He had hardly done so, when the boy seized him around 
the neck with his right hand, while he clung tenaciously to 
the rope with his left. He probably calculated that he 
would be able to keep Koger's head under the water in this 
way and save himself with the aid of the rope after he had 
drowned his enemy. 

Pierre Bourdier sprung to the assistance of his imprudent 
companion, but quick as he was, Eegina was there before 
him, and had already seized the lieutenant by the blouse 
when the messenger reached him. 

In spite of his strength and ready wit, Pierre Bourdier 
was terribly perplexed. Koger's head was still partially 
under water, and he had all he could do to keep himself 
from being dragged into the river, so if the struggle proved 
a long one, he would certainly be drowned before the vaga- 
bond's strength was exhausted. 

The messenger understood this so perfectly that he 
picked up a staff that had been left there by some Prussian 
soldier, and held it out to the boy. 

" Come, boy, let go the rope, and come ashore. No one 
will harm you/' he said, persuasively. 

" No, no!" yelled the young fiend. "I don't believe 
you. You would kill me, and I don't intend to (.lie 
alone." 

" Die, then, viper!" said Bourdier, dropping the stick, 
and springing back. A new idea had just occurred to 
him. 

"Ah, ha! I've got them both now!" yelled the little 
fiend. " They'll be drowned, both of them! Do you un- 
derstand. L — " 

But the little monster did not have time to finish the 
sentence. The rope to which he was clinging with his left 



THE KED BAKU. 353 

hand had just yielded to the force of the current, and over- 
taken by this sudden mishap, the vagabond endeavored in 
vain to sustain himself by his hold on Eoger's collar; but 
it was torn from his grasp by a big wave that swept him 
away upon its breast. In another second he had disap- 
peared in the darkness, and his last cry of rage was 
smothered by a huge block of ice that settled down upon 
him like the stone that covers a grave. 

Eoger, freed from his grasp, managed to regain his foot- 
ing just as his breath was beginning to fail him, and once 
again he owed his life to the presence of mind of the brave 
messenger who had so opportunely untied the rope. 

" "Well, comrade, I hope you are cured of your misplaced 
generosity now/' remarked Bourdier. 

" Oh, that cry! I hear it yet!" murmured the lieuten- 
ant. 

" It was the savage yell of a wild beast," replied the 
messenger, brusquely, " and I'm glad I have been able to 
rid the country of him. ' * 

" Who would have supposed that a mere child would be 
guilty of such malevolence? And he was a Frenchman, 
too." 

" Yes, of a type not uncommon since the beginning of 
our trouble," muttered Bourdier; "but it is useless to 
speak of that now. Have you quite recovered, comrade? 
Take another swallow of brandy, and then we must try 
to get away from here. It is not a safe place by any 
means. " 

" No, and I wonder that the Prussians upon the island 
have not fired at us before now." 

"Oh! we had to contend with the greatest drunkards in 
the Pomeranian army, fortunately for us; and I knew they 
would not give us much trouble, for Father Sarrazin 
promised to give them plenty of his home-made wine. It 
was that little scoundrel who urged the sentinel to send 
those bullets after us. By this time the Prussian has r§-> 



354 THE KED 1!A>*P. 

turned to his den, and his comrades think we are all at the 
bottom of the Seine. " 

Pierre was now climbing the rather steep bluff that over- 
looks the river, closely followed by his friends. 

"I am really afraid of but one thing," he continued. 
" That is that the sound of the shot has been heard at all 
the posts and by all the sentinels on this side of the river," 
remarked Bourdier, after they had walked on in silence for 
some time. 

" Where are we?" inquired Eoger, glancing around him. 

" On the plain of Argenteuil, about a league and a half 
from the first line of French outposts. That light you see 
over there, on our right, is Sartrouville, and a little further 
on, that black mass, beside a fire which must be that of a 
Prussian bivouac, is the village of Houilles. Both these 
places are crowded with Germans, and are consequently to 
be avoided. On the hills to the left, in the vicinity of 
Cormeil, Franconville and Sannois, it is even worse, be- 
sides, they are entirely out of our route. There is nothing 
for us to do consequently but go straight on. " 

" What! through these fields where there is not so much 
as a bush to conceal us?" 

" And where we shall be less likely to meet any Prus- 
sians for that very reason. They guard the forests and vil- 
lages with jealous care, but don't trouble themselves much 
about the plains. It is the road to Pontoise that we had 
better take, I think, though it is by no means certain that 
we shall not encounter some of their scouts. " 

" But where are we going to recross the river?" 

" At the bridge at Bezons," replied Bourdier, tranquilly. 

" Why, that would be madness! The Prussians occujjy 
that village in force, and I have reason to know that it is 
one of the best guarded points on their line/' 

" Yes, but as you are aware of this fact, you must also 
know that our sharpshooters line the right bank of the 
river. Colombes, Bois-Colombes, and Nanterre are filled 



THE RED BAND. 355 

with our troops; and in the hamlet called Petit Nanterre, 
at one end of the bridge, there is a detachment of sharp- 
shooters who will receive us with open arms." 

"But you certainly can not hope that the enemy will 
allow us to cross the bridge?" 

" Not the bridge, but the Seine, perhaps." 

'*' But how? There are no boats, and we shall not find 
a ferry-rope stretched for our convenience there as here/' 

" That is true; besides, one doesn't walk a tight-rope 
twice the same night unless one is a Blondin," replied 
Bourdier, laughing. " But it will take us three hours to 
reach Bezon, and I am almost sure that we can cross the 
river on the ice by that time. " 

" Bat what if the river should not be frozen?" inquired 
Roger, after a moment's silence. 

"Bat it will be." 

After this display of confidence and audacity Boger 
would have blushed to offer any further objections, so there 
was nothing to do but march on, and this he proceeded to 
do without another word, while as for Eegina, here on the 
edge. of tins gloomy plain that she was to traverse, sur- 
rounded by the enemy, the young girl was the same as she 
had been in the forest and upon the river, calm, grave, 
and resolute. 

" We must start now/' said Pierre Bourdier, curtly* 
" and as we have no time to waste in idle talk, so let us 
decide upon our plans once for all. " 

" I am listening," replied Boger. 

" In the first place," continued the messenger, " it is 
settled that I am to go first for several reasons; the chief 
of which is that I know the road." 

" Yes; but you are also resolved to take the position of 
greatest danger, and I am very grateful to you/' 

" Why should I not be anxious to save you from an 
enemy's bullet if possible? My life is certainly less valua- 
ble than that of a French officer, and I would rather die a 



356 IHB EED BAND. 

dozen times than see a hair of that brave young girl's head 
harmed." 

" I thank you for her," said the lieutenant, extending a 
hand that the messenger pressed cordially, " but you forget 
about your dispatches." 

" I think I had better intrust a copy of them to you," 
replied Bourdier, taking the book of cigarette paper from 
his pocket. " You must roll the paper up and fill it with 
tobacco, as I did, in case of any trouble. " 

" I certainly have not forgotten, but — " 

" No buts, comrade. It is a favor I ask of you, and you 
must not refuse it. More than that, you must promise me, 
upon your word of honor, to do exactly what I tell 
you. " 

" I promise." 

' ' Very well, you must promise me, too, that in case I 
am killed or captured you will not trouble yourself about 
me, but try to make your own escape with this child." 

Roger felt strongly tempted to retract his promise, but he 
knew that the heroic messenger would not consent, so he 
hung his head in silence. 

" Even if you should see me fall only a dozen yards from 
you — even if I should be guilty of the weakness of calling 
you, you are to flee, and not look behind you to see what 
the Prussians have done with me." 

There was a long silence. 

" It is for the sake of. France that I make this request," 
continued Bourdier, "for if any misfortune should befall 
me it will be our only chance of saving the dispatch." 

" So be it, then," murmured the officer. 

" I shall rely upon your promise, and now I have only 
one more suggestion to make to you. Follow me at a dis- 
tance of eight or ten yards, more or less, according as the 
night is more or less clear, but in such a way as never to 
lose sight of me. Do exactly what you see me do. Whether 
I pause, hasten on, stretch myself out upon the ground or 



THE EED BAND. 357 

creep along on nay hands and knees, imitate my every 
movement exactly and instantly. " 

" Very well." 

" As for the young girl, you are to take charge of her, 
and I shall not make any further attempt to explain mat- 
trers to her, for I begin to think that she hears with her 
eyes. " 

"She understands all you say, I am sure," declared 
Roger. 

"Then forward march!" said Pierre Bourdier, almost 
gayiy. 

And suiting the action to the word he crossed the path 
and started across the large barren field that bordered it 
upon one side. 

The Prussians had undoubtedly been there, for here 
and there were half completed trenches and earthworks. 
This northern soldiery had destroyed every trace of vege- 
tation in its track as completely as an army of locusts. 
Traces of the invasion were apparent on every hand, and 
on seeing this plain, which had formerly been cultivated 
with as much care as a garden, one would have supposed 
himself in the wilds of Brittany. 

After a tramp of about three quarters of an hour, ren- 
dered extremely wearisome by the necessity of maintaining 
a stooping posture most of the time, the fugitives beheld 
in front of them a long elevation which, seen from a dis- 
tance, resembled the front of a line of fortifications. 

Eoger felt satisfied that this must be the Pontoise road 
mentioned by the messenger, and knowing that this was 
one of the most dangerous points of their nocturnal expedi- 
tion, he resolved to exercise still greater caution. 

He soon saw Pierre Bourdier pause several seconds, then, 
bending almost double, creep along with a cat-like step to 
the foot of the ridge that formed the road. On arriving 
there he laid down flat upon his stomach and began to 
climb the slope with infinite caution. Roger and the young 



358 THE BED BAND. 

girl, who both regulated their movements by his, reached 
the foot of the slope just as Bourdier reached the snmmit. 
After remaining stationary there a second or two they saw 
him disappear from sight without rising to his feet, but not 
until he had addressed a warning gesture to them. 

Eegina and Soger followed him, side by side, up the 
slope until they reached a broad macadamized road which 
extended toward the right as far as the eye could reach; 
but only about a hundred yards to the left of the spot upon 
which they were lying there was an obstruction across its 
entire breadth. The lieutenant did not perceive the nat- 
ure of this obstruction at first, but on looking at it more 
closely he became satisfied that it was an abatis of trees. 

Soon the sound of measured footsteps struck his ear. ■£ 

There was not the slightest doubt now. 

A most unfortunate chance had led the fugitives to within 
a few yards of a Prussian barricade, and the sound heard 
by Eoger was made by the boot-heels of the sentinel who 
was pacing to and fro behind it. 

The lieutenant saw no sign of Pierre Bourdier. He had 
vanished from sight like a phantom. 

The situation was a critical one. 

To cross a road only about one hundred yards from an 
armed sentinel, without protection of any kind, was cer- 
tainly a hazardous undertaking, especially as it was not 
dark enough for the fugitives to pass unnoticed. 

The lieutenant knew, by experience, that the Prussians 
had excellent eyesight, and that their vigilance was untir- 
ing, still Pierre Bourdier had succeeded in crossing safely, 
and recollecting his instructions, Eoger said to himself: 

" I promised to imitate all his movements, and as I have 
received my orders I must not depart from them." 

The lieutenant touched Eegina's arm to put her on her 
guard, and then, without any further delay, essayed to make 
the dangerous crossing. He began very slowly and cau- 
tiously, dragging himself along on his hands and knees, 



THE KED ]SANI>. 359 

and taking care to place himself on the left-hand side of 
his companion, in order that he might serve as a shield for 
her in case of an attack. 

The measured steps of the sentinel continued to resound 
through the stillness of the night. 

" So long as he doesn't stop we have nothing to fear," 
thought Roger, " for that will be a pretty sure sign that he 
has not seen us." 

The road was very broad, and when he reached the mid- 
dle of it Eoger perceived that the barricade was nearer 
than he had at first supposed, for he could distinctly hear 
the sentinel whistling a Tyrolean air. When he had dragged 
himself painfully along a few steps further he could even 
distinguish the sound of several voices. They were talking 
at their post, a pretty conclusive proof that the Prussians 
suspected nothing. 

If they had imagined that any Frenchmen were in such 
close proximity to them they certainly would not have been 
chatting tranquilly behind the barricade. 

The fugitives were now near enough to the other side of 
the road to see that the slope on that side was as steep as 
that they had just climbed. 

They had only three or four yards more to traverse to 
reach the inclined plane, which would effectually conceal 
them from the enemy, when Eoger noticed that the sound 
of the sentinel's footsteps had suddenly ceased. 
i He had evidently paused in his promenade. 
1 The fugitives hastened their movements, in order to 
reach the protecting slope more quickly, and the lieutenant 
had need of all his presence of mind to maneuver in such a 
way as not to attract the attention of the Prussians. 

" Werda?" 

This sonorous cry suddenly resounded from behind the 
barricade, and Boger's heart sunk like lead. 

The sentinel had evidently noticed something moving 
across the road, and Was preparing to fire. 



360 THE RED BAND. 

The bullet might come at any instant, and it was not 
advisable to wait for it, so Eoger hastened on as rapidly as 
one can hasten when one is dragging himself along upon 
his hands and knees — and Kegina kept pace with him. 

But even in the brief interval allowed him for thought it 
occurred to him that this movement, rapid as it was, would 
not perhaps save him, for it was more than probable that 
the disappearance of the object noticed by the sentinel 
would not satisfy their curiosity, but that they would prob- 
ably emerge from their place of ambush to ascertain what 
it was. This by no means reassuring idea had but just oc- 
curred to him, however, when he heard a dog bark loudly 
and repeatedly only a few yards from him. 

Stifled laughter was the only response to this unexpected 
signal, and in the fragmentary remarks that reached Roger's 
ear he fancied he could distinguish the word hound. He 
was already on the top of the slope, and there was now 
nothing left for him to do but allow himself to slide down 
the incline, all the while congratulating himself upon this 
most opportune presence of one of the canine race. 

To his profound astonishment he landed in Pierre Bour- 
dier's arms. 

" What! you are here?" he whispered. 

" I waited for you, for I suspected that you would need 
me, and I was not mistaken. That wasn't a bad imitation 
I gave you just now, was it:" 

" What? That dog—" 

"Was your humble servant. I'm a good hand at it, 
and this isn't the first time I've deceived the Prussians by 
this trick." 

" But what are we to do now?" inquired Eoger. 

" Wait here a minute or two, just to take breath, and 
then resume our journey. " 

" And you still hope to reach Paris in safety?" 

" Hope it! Why, I am almost sure of it now. It will 
take us only about half an hour to get to Bezons now," 



THE RED BAND. 3(31 

' But that is the most difficult part of the whole jour- 
ney, it seems to me. The village is certainly occupied by 
the Prussians, and judging from what we have just seen, 
it will be a difficult matter to pass it." 

" Don't worry. I am familiar with the locality, and I 
Know a path that will take us to the river bank without 
my Prussian suspecting that there is such a thing as a 
Frenchman in the neighborhood. 

" If that was all I had to trouble me," added Bourdier, 
vith a sigh, " I should feel tolerably sure of taking supper 
vith our sharpshooters at Petit Nanterre, two hours from 
iow, but — " 

" But what?" repeated Roger, anxiously. 

" But there is something else." 

" What?" 

" The Seine, that came so near proving fatal to us when 
ve crossed it before. Is it frozen over now, or is it not? 
hat is the question. The wind is still blowing from the 
lorth, and the thermometer has certainly fallen several 
legrees since we began our journey, so it would certainly 
>e very strange if a river as full of ice as the Seine is now 
lad not frozen over by this time." 

" Heaven grant it!" sighed Eoger. 

" In any case there is nothing left for us to do but go 
m," continued the messenger, rising, " and we will resume 
mr line of march in the same order as before. " 

Eoger and the young girl followed him, and after a rapid 
; r alk of half an hour they saw him pause and motion them 
o join him. 

" The Seine lies there before us," he whispered. 

The fate of the fugitives was about to be decided. 



3tW THE RED BAND. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

From the spot where Pierre Bourdier had paused the 
houses of Bezons were distinctly visible; and the Prussians 
who occupied this village, which was one of considerable 
importance on account of its close proximity to the French 
outposts, took no trorble to conceal their presence. 

Lights shone from the windows of several houses, and 
the reflection of an immense camp-fire reddened the sky. 
It was very evident that the enemy considered themselves 
secure from any attack on the side next the plain, and re- 
served their precautions for that portion of the village bor- 
dering on the Seine. 

There, the sharpshooters of the two hostile nations were 
separated only by the width of the stream, so the houses 
near the bridge remained shrouded in darkness, and the 
silence was broken only by the shots occasionally exchanged 
between the sentinels stationed upon the banks. 

Roger was not reassured by the appearance of things, and 
though he racked his brain to the uttermost he could not 
imagine how his guide would manage to pass through this 
fortified village swarming with Prussians. 

A clump of trees stood a short distance from the spot 
that Bourdier had selected for his first halt, and at the foot 
of this semicircle of ancient elms Roger could dimly dis- 
tinguish a mass of light gray masonry. 

" There it is," whispered the messenger. 

" What?" 

"Our road." 

The lieutenant did not understand him in the least. His 
friend called it a road, but he saw nothing save a wall. 
Nevertheless he had become accustomed to yielding to Pierre 
Bourdier's rather peremptory decisions, and he had such 



THE RED BAND. 363 

implicit faith in the accuracy of his judgment that he made 
no comment whatever. 

" You will soon see that I did not deceive you when I 
told you that we should pass under the very noses of the 
Prussians without their having the slightest suspicion of the 
fact. Let xis move on, but very cautiously, for the scoun- 
drels are not far off;" 

; And he resumed his journey, closely followed by his two 
protegees. 

The little party proceeded straight toward the clump of 
trees; but to reach it they were obliged to ascend a knoll 
dotted here and there with clumps of shrubbery and piles of 
stones. Bourdier bent himself nearly double in passing 
through all the open spaces, and skillfully availed himself 
of every bush and shrub that would serve as a sort of 
screen; and it is needless to say that his movements were 
scrupulously imitated by the lieutenant and the young girl. 

They finally reached the edge of a sort of basin much 
longer than it was broad, at the further end of which rose 
the wall which the fugitives had perceived in the distance. 

It was not difficult to see the intended use of this basin, 
dug by the hand of man, and bordered with a row of broad 
flat stones; but whether it was intended for a reservoir or 
lavatory it was evidently not in use at that time, for it was 
covered with a sheet of ice. 

" That is a good omen," whispered the lieutenant to 
Pierre Bourdier, who happened to be standing beside him, 
for two or three large stones thrown by the Prussians had 
made no impression upon it, but could be seen lying upon 
its surface. 

" The Seine doesn't freeze over as easily as a pond," re- 
plied the messenger, laconically; " but we shall soon know 
what to think now. " 

As Bourdier spoke he stepped upon the ice and motioned 
Eoger to follow him. These mute instructions were in- 
stantly obeyed by the lieutenant and Kegina, who followed 



364 THE RED BAtfr>. 

their guide closely and silently across the frozen pond. 
When they reached the wall at the further end of it Bour- 
dier paused and pointed to an opening in the masonry. 

" Do you understand now?" he asked, with a low 
chuckle. 

" I can't say that I do. " 
*" "Ah, well, I'll explain, then. The opening you see 
here is the mouth of a subterranean canal that serves as an 
outlet when the water rises too high in the basin. This 
passage, which seems to have been made expressly for our 
convenience, leads straight to the river, and ends at the 
first arch of the bridge. " 

"And you feel sure that it is neither walled up nor 
guarded?" 

" Perfectly sure. Father Sarrazin explored it day before 
yesterday, and satisfied himself fully on that point. " 

" My dear comrade, we shall certainly owe our lives to 
you." 

" Wait until we reach Paris before you say that." 

" We shall be there to-morrow, I am sure." 

" We shall be better able to say when we reach the 
mouth of the canal," replied Pierre Bourdier, stooping in 
order to enter the opening. " When I promised you a lit- 
tle while ago that you should pass safely under the very 
noses of the Prussians, I ought to have said under their 
very feet," he added. 

Roger was not even obliged to beckon to Eegina. She 
had already followed their guide into the dark passage-way. 
The canal was neither very high nor very broad, but it pre- 
sented no serious obstacles; the only serious inconvenience 
to travelers who had become tolerably accustomed to crawl- 
ing along on their hands and knees was the lack of air that 
became especially noticeable in the middle of the passage- 
way, and not more than a quarter of an hour had passed 
when Roger, who brought up the rear, perceived a faint 
light that seemed to be drawing nearer and nearer. 



THE KED liAND. ^65 

Ten minutes afterward they reached the mouth of the 
canal. 

'* We are under the first arch of the bridge," whispered 
Bourdier, "and I begin to think that all will be well. 
See!" he added, pointing to the river. 

The river, which extended to within about three feet of 
them, was covered with ice, but whether this ice was suffi- 
ciently strong to bear their weight was a question that could 
only be settled by trying. 

"The bridge has five arches, of which the middle one only 
has been destroyed. We shall have no difficulty until we 
reach that, for as long as we keep under the bridge we have 
nothing to fear from the Prussians. " 
! '"' But you think we shall succeed in getting safely across?" 
asked Roger, who could not help trembling for Eegina 
whenever they found themselves confronted by any new 
peril. 

" I am utterly unable to say," replied the messenger; 
" but this much is certain, it is too late to recoil now." 

And he stepped cautiously upon the ice. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

The bridge at Bezons was the scene of continual conflict 
during the entire siege of Paris, though no great battle or 
important engagement ever took place there, for the French 
troops never made any attempt to force a passage across the 
Seine at this point, there being no special strategic ad- 
vantage to be derived from its occupancy. 

The Prussians, too, having resolved to reduce the capital 
by starvation, had no desire to incur any risk of serious loss 
here or elsewhere, and so confined themselves to guarding 
the river without making any attempt to cross it. 

The French sharpshooters occupied a long line of in- 
trenchments on the summit of the ridge that overlooks the 
stream at this point and directly opposite the Prussians, 



366 THE RED BAND. 

who were posted in the houses and upon the quay on the 
right bank of the river, and both sides kept up an almost 
incessant fire, probably to keep themselves in practice, for 
they rarely killed any one. 

The vigor with which this fusillade was maintained de- 
pended greatly upon the character of the troops that guard- 
ed this point, the Bavarians being rather peaceably in- 
clined, while the Pomeranians never missed an opportunity 
to get a shot at any helmet or bayonet that showed itself. 

When Bourdier left Paris the Bavarians were occupying 
Bezons; and it is not unlikely that he believed the difficul- 
ties of their jsresent undertaking would be mitigated by the 
rather peaceable disposition of the men guarding the post; 
but the garrison had been changed during his absence, and 
the fusillade during the latter part of the month of Decem- 
ber was much more brisk and spirited than ever before. 

A sharpshooter who was a great favorite with his com- 
panions had been shot through the head while he was quiet- 
ly superintending the manufacture of a pot of soup in the 
trenches. On the other hand, some Pomeranians who vent- 
ured out upon the river in a boat, in order to have a little 
music, had been fired at by the French sharpshooters, and 
after this interchange of hostilities both sides lived in a 
state of incessant warfare. 

The little party that had just ventured out upon the ice 
soon discovered that this was by no means a favorable mo- 
ment for crossing the Seine unseen, for they had scarcely 
begun to traverse the space under the first arch when a shot 
was fired from the left bank, and then another, and in re- 
sponse to these came three quick shots from the opposite 
shore. 

" If we should remain here two hours our situation would 
undergo no change for the better, for they will keep this 
up all night; and I fear the ice will not last long as the 
weather is already beginning to moderate considerablv I 
think we had better risk it here and now." 



THE BED BAND. 3G7 

Pierre Bourdier said this in his most decided tones. 

" I think so too," replied the lieutenant. 

" Then there is nothing for us to do but go straight 
ahead; but this time I think that each of us had better cross 
separately, instead of proceeding in line as we did before." 

" You are right. A solitary individual will attract less 
attention than a party/' 

" Exactly; but be careful to walk directly under the mid- 
dle of the bridge, as there the shadow is almost sure to 
effectually screen you from observation, and in rounding 
the piers that support the arches stoop and keep as close 
to the masonry as possible, so it will be difficult to distin- 
guish you from it. " 

" That will be the most dangerous part of the trip." 

" No, not so dangerous as crossing the open space where 
the middle arch formerly stood. There we shall be exposed 
upon all sides; and the only thing we can do is to make a 
rush for the first arch on the opposite shore.'" 

" That won't be such a very difficult matter if the ice is 
strong enough to hold us." 

" I am by no means sure that it is; but I see no other 
way out of the difficulty. Besides, if we succeed in reach- 
ing the further end of the second arch unobserved — as I 
hope we shall— we can pause there a moment to find out 
the real state of affairs and hold a last council of war. And 
now let us start, for a thaw is not far off." 

" Yes, let us start," rep'eated Roger, " and may Heaven 
protect us!" 

The space under the first arch was traversed without the 
slightest difficulty, for it was very dark under this protect- 
ing roof, and the positions occupied by the sharpshooters 
on both sides of the river were such as to make it very 
difficult for them to see what was going on under this arch. 

On reaching the first massive pier the little party divid- 
ed, Pierre Bourdier going to the left and Roger to the 
right. Regina very naturally followed her friend, who 



3l38- THE KED BAND. 

threw himself flat upon the ice and crawled cautiously 
around the massive abutment to the space under the second 
arch. 

It was the work of only a few seconds, and the maneuver 
proved eminently successful, for the lieutenant had scarcely 
risen to his feet again when he saw Bourdier round the 
other end of the pier, and in another second or two Kegina 
stood beside them safe and sound. 

Three minutes more and the space between the first and 
second piers was safely traversed; but their position now 
was much less enviable from the fact that it was not im- 
possible for the guards stationed upon the right bank to see 
under the arch, though by keeping perfectly still the fugi- 
tives might escape observation. 

The critical moment soon came, however. 

Beyond this place of shelter lay the vacant space made by 
the destruction of the center arch; but there was some con- 
solation in knowing that France lay on the other side of it, 
and that the arches on the left bank of the stream once 
reached, the fugitives had only to reveal their identity. 

" We must make the venture, and at once, for I can see 
that the ice is becoming less firm already," whispered Bour- 
dier. 

"And it will be even less strong in the middle of the 
river," replied Eoger. 

" That remains to be seen. Come with me, and let us 
reconuoiter a little," responded" Bourdier, dragging his 
companion to the end of the pier. 

" Now let us get down on our knees and take a look at 
the other side/' he remarked. 

To their unspeakable relief they found that the channel, 
too, was frozen over, though the surface of the ice was ex- 
ceedingly uneven, owing to the fact that the huge blocks of 
floating ice had been piled one above the other by the force 
of the current. 

All was quiet., however. The fusillade had stopped for a 



THE BED BAND. 3(59 

time, and the profound silence was broken only by a dull 
and monotonous sound that seemed to come from some- 
where above their heads. 

"It is the Prussian sentinel on guard at the end of the 
bridge beating his arms to keep himself warm/' whispered 
Bourdier. 

" The deuce! he's in a very bad place for us." 

" And for himself, too," replied Bourdier, crawling back 
under the protecting shelter of the arch; and they had 
scarcely risen to their feet when a shot was fired from the 
bank on which the French were encamped and Eoger heard 
a stifled cry, followed by the sound of a heavy fall over- 
head. 

" I didn't expect my words to come true so soon," re- 
marked the messenger. 

" Why, what do you mean?" 

" Why, one of our men who must have been watching 
for him has at last succeeded in picking him off. " It's a 
good thing for us, for he might have caused us no end of 
trouble, not by firing at us — he was not in a good place for 
that — but by shouting to the other Prussians. I really be- 
gin to think that we shall breakfast in Paris to-morrow, 
after all. ' ' 

Regina had approached them. She was calm and even 
smiling, and the terrible risk they were about to run seemed 
to have no terrors for her. 

" This time we must all take flight together, like a flock 
of birds," continued Bourdier. " Are you ready:" 

" Yes," replied Roger. 

"Forward, then!" 

Roger traversed half the distance safely, but on reaching 
the middle of the stream he stumbled over a block of ice, 
and narrowly escaped falling. It took him only a second 
to regain his equilibrium, but when he did, he perceived 
that Regina was considerably in advance of him, and that 
she had directed her course toward the right. It was evi- 



370 THE RED BAND. 

dent that she intended to round the side of the pier furthest 
down the river. 

His first impulse was to follow her, but the thought that 
it would be better to separate flashed across his mind, and 
he turned to the left. 

With a few hurried bounds the open space was traversed. 
Bourdier crossed a little further to the left and a few feet 
behind him, and the protecting shadow of the pier was 
nearly reached, when the young lieutenant saw the barrel 
of a musket gleam from under the arch. 

The sensation he experienced, however, was that of sur- 
prise rather than fear. He was prepared for almost any- 
thing, in fact, except finding an enemy lurking under the 
arch toward which he was so frantically rushing. 

The first idea that occurred to him was to pause instant- 
ly; the second was to recoil; but he had no time to analyze 
his impressions, for as he hastily turned he slipped and fell 
flat upon the ice. Unfortunately he had fallen a little 
above the pier, and consequently within range of the rifle 
leveled upon him. As he fell, too, he heard this by no 
means reassuring order, uttered a few yards from him: 

" Fire, and be sure not to miss him!" 

Roger closed his eyes and awaited death, though not 
without a terrible sinking of heart at the thought that he 
was about to perish by the hand of a compatriot, but al- 
most simultaneously with the words uttered above, a voice 
that seemed to proceed from the other end of the pier cried 
hastily: 

"Don't fire! It is a Frenchman!" 

The man under the arch must have heard the exclama- 
tion and attached some importance to it, for instead of 
firing, as he had at first intended, he dropped his gun. It 
would be difficult to describe all that passed through the lieu- 
tenant's mind during the next few seconds, which seemed 
longer than centuries. 
\ He had supposed himself lost, but he was saved, or at 



THE RED BAND. J71 

least he was still living, and, stranger than all the rest, it 
seemed to him that the voice which had uttered this timely- 
warning was the voice of a woman. 

" If you are a friend, tell who yon are." 

These words uttered in subdued tones, only a few feet 
from him, quickly awoke him to a realizing sense of the 
situation, and scrambling to his feet with all possible speed, 
he replied: 

" Yes, yes; I am a Frenchman." 

As he spoke he took a step forward. 

" The countersign, quick! the countersign! Give me the 
countersign, or I'll blow your brains out," cried the man 
with the gun, in a tone that would have convinced any one 
of his determination to fire if the response did not prove 
satisfactory. 

Eoger was, of course, unable to comply with this order, 
but fortunately he had the presence of mind to promptly 
reply: 

" I am the bearer of dispatches from the Army of the 
Loire." 

This announcement, however, would not perhaps have 
sufficed to protect him from the weapon that was again lev- 
eled upon him, but almost at the same instant, two or three 
bullets fired from the Prussian side made the ice fly around 
him, and this constituted a pretty satisfactory proof of the 
truth of his assertion, for the Germans certainly would not 
have fired at one of their own men; so, instead of firing or 
uttering any further threats, the shai'iDshooter under the 
arch quietly said: 

" Come under here, then, and let us see who you 
are." 

Eoger needed no urging, though he was not unprepared 
for the very inhospitable reception that awaited him. He 
had scarcely reached the pier, however, when a pair of 
stalwart hands seized him by the collar, and another, man 
stepped up behind him and pinioned his arms. 



372 THE RED BAND. 

" Hold him tight," said the person who seemed to be in 
command of the party. 

" Don't be afraid, he can't move," replied his captors. 

" Now who are you?" demanded the officer, curtly. 

" A lieutenant in the Mobiles," said Roger, who had re- 
covered his presence of mind, " captured at Billancourt on 
the 17th of October, escaped day before yesterday from the 
enemy's hospital at Saint Germain, and the bearer of a let- 
ter addressed to the Governor of Paris. " 

This information was uttered in accents so clear and firm 
that it made an evident impression on the commander. 

" Very well. We will see about all this presently in 
the trenches," he said, hastily. 

" But I am not alone," said Roger, who had forgotten 
his companions for an instant in the excitement. 

" A woman!" exclaimed the leader of the sharpshooters, 
almost at the same instant, for Regina had suddenly ap- 
peared before them. 

" Yes; a woman who assisted me in making my escape 
from Saint Germain," hastily replied the lieutenant. 

" And who just saved your life again," remarked one of 
the sharpshooters; " for if she had not cried out I should 
certainly have shot yon. " 

" Cried out? Why, that is impossible! She is dumb." 

"Dumb!" repeated the leader. "That is strange., 
Wait, and let me think a moment — " 

" But where is my other friend?" interrupted the lieu- 
tenant. 

" What other friend?" 

" A comrade who is also the bearer of dispatches. " 

What he said was only too true. Pierre Bourdier was 
indeed missing, and the incidents related above had fol- 
lowed each other in such swift succession that Roger had 
not been able to see what had become of the messenger. 

It seemed to him that he had seen him upon his left a 
second before his fall, but what had become of him since? 



THE RED BAND. 373 

Roger's every faculty was instantly stimulated to the utter- 
most by the thought that the man who had saved his life 
two or three times was in danger of death. 

" Save him, sir, or let me save him!" he cried, making 
a desperate effort to free himself from his captors. 

" But where is her" 

" There, on the ice, exposed to the enemy's fire — wound- 
ed, perhaps!" 

" There were two of them, sir," said one of the soldiers 
who were holding the fugitive. 

" Then we must see what has become of him," muttered 
the officer. " Though this is a bad place for us, it shall 
never be said that I allowed a Frenchman to perish if 
there was any possibility of saving him. " 

" Look out, Girard, and see if you can see anything of 
him. " 

The soldier obeyed, and after a moment's silence turned 
his head to say: 

" I see him." 

"Where? What is he doing? Call him!" exclaimed 
Roger. 

" Silence in the ranks!" said the officer, sternly. 

" He has fallen into an air-hole!" 

" Is he dead?" 

"No; he is trying to get out, but he will find it a very 
difficult matter, as the ice breaks whenever he rests any 
weight upon it. ' ' 

" To say nothing of the fact that he is sure to be shot," 
added another soldier. 

For a well-directed fire was now in progress from the 
Prussians. 

Quick! don't lose a second!" cried Roger. 
How far is he from the pier?" 

At least twenty yards, and in a fine place to serve as a 
target for the enemy." 

" Then there will soon be one man less in the world," 



a 

(C 



374 THE BED BAND. 

said the officer, in a tone that admitted of no reply. " Pre- 
pare to beat a retreat, boys. " 

" What! you certainly will not-— " 

The only response to this despairing cry were these words, 
which rang in Roger's ears like a death-knell: 

"I will not endanger the lives of my soldiers to save a 
civilian from death. " 

Eoger did not know what to say in reply to this refusal, 
for it was only too evident that no one could save the un- 
fortunate Bourdier without incurring great risk; but an in- 
spiration occurred to him. 

" Major," he said, in a voice that trembled with emo- 
tion, " I do not ask you to endanger the lives of your men, 
but I certainly have a right to dispose of my own." 

" What do you mean?" 

" I mean that I will go to his aid alone. " 

" Where? Out upon the ice?" 

" Yes; and I beseech you to allow me to do it." 

" Are you so fond of your comrade as all that?" 

" Had it not been for him I should have lost my life 
over and over again since I escaped from Saint Germain. " 

" You would only be throwing away your own life. This 
man is lost, and you would not be able to get him here, 
even if you were fortunate enough to escape the enemy's 
bullets yourself." 

" No matter; I will try! I must try!" cried Eoger, once 
more making a frantic effort to free himself from his 
captors. 

But they had received their instructions, and they would 
not relax their hold without an order from their commander, 
who did not seem inclined to give it. 

He seemed to be reflecting, and Roger trembled with im- 
patience, remembering that every second lost lessened his 
friend's chance of escape. 

''Upon my word, major," remarked the sharpshooter, 
who had remained at the corner of the pier to watch, " if 



THE RED BAND. 375 

you want to get the fellow out of the scrape you will have 
to make haste, for he seems to be gradually sinking deeper 
and deeper into the hole." 

" He will have to stay there," replied the officer, with 
the brusqueness of a man who has just come to a painful 
but irrevocable decision. " We must be off now, and take 
these persons with us. " 

" But that is impossible, sir!" exclaimed Boger. "You 
certainly will not allow a Frenchman and a bearer of dis- 
patches to perish thus — " 

" But you, too, are a bearer of dispatches, you say; and 
if I allow you to go out there and get killed how will your 
dispatches reach Paris?" 

"I shall give them to you. Here they are," said the 
lieutenant, drawing a blank book from his pocket. 

The officer took it with very natural astonishment, but 
the offer did not produce the effect Boger had anticipated. 

" I must say that all this does not seem very clear to 
me," replied the officer, " and for that very reason I can 
not think of releasing you. " 

"What! you distrust me?" 

" Most assuredly I do. You say that you bring a mes- 
sage from one of our armies in the provinces. That is very 
possible; still, there is nothing to prove that you are not a 
Prussian spy. Many stranger things happen in these days, 
and if I should allow you to venture out upon the ice I am 
by no means sure that you would not take advantage of the 
opportunity to rejoin your friends, the enemy. " 

The unfortunate lieutenant bowed his head under this 
accusation; but, though he lacked courage to vindicate him- 
self, he was determined to make his escape, even if he fell 
a victim to a French bullet. 

The men shouldered their rifles, and the whole party was 
about to depart, when Eegina emerged from the shadow in 
which she had been standing, and to the officer's intense 
astonishment, seized him by the arm. 



376 THE RED BAND. 

"What the deuce can she want with me?" exclaimed 
the major, as he allowed the girl to lead him to the end of 
the pier, where it was not nearly as dark as under the mid- 
dle of the arch, and where the pale light of the rising moon 
shone upon the features of the young girl and revealed her 
lustrous black eyes. 

An exclamation of astonishment escaped the officer. 

" Why, it is the gypsy girl T met at Bueil!" he exclaimed, 
leaning forward to scrutinize the girl's features more closely. 

Eegina nodded, as if to assure him that he was not mis- 
taken. 

" Well, this is really incomprehensible!" muttered the 
officer. 

But his surprise increased, for the girl's gestures instant- 
ly became more expressive. With one hand she pointed 
heavenward, and with the other to the unfortunate man 
who was struggling for life there under his very eyes. 

It would have been impossible to express more clearly the 
assurance that God commanded the soldier to save a com- 
patriot. But the officer saw something more than a divine 
invocation in the gesture, for, struck by a sudden recollec- 
tion, he exclaimed: 

" The prophecy!" 

Eegina seized his hand, and pressed it tightly, while her 
glowing eyes riveted themselves upon those of the officer. 

" Yes, I recollect," he stammered, drawing away his 
hand to pass it across his forehead like a man who is just 
waking from a dream. "She predicted it — over there in 
Mouchabeuf's wine-shop. I know — I have not forgotten. 
I am to be shot before the end of the year — if — if I do not 
save the life of — " 

"In the name of France, major, I beseech you not to 
let him die!" cried Eoger, who was too far off to hear, but 
who had seen Eegina's gestures and the officer's evident 
hesitation. 

He had no idea what was passing between them, as the 



THE KKD 1JAND. 377 

scene at Eueil had never been described to him, but his in- 
stinct told him that all hope was not lost. 

He soon perceived that he was not mistaken. 

The major pushed Eegina aside, and dashing by his as- 
tonished men, he sprung out upon the ice, crying : 

" No, no! It shall never be said of me that I, Podensac, 
allowed a Frenchman to perish under my very eyes!" 

All else was forgotten now in watching the thrilling 
scene before them, for Pierre Bourdier's situation had be- 
come really desperate. 

He had been so unfortunate as to step into a sort of 
miniature crevasse, and the weight of his body had gradu- 
ally separated the blocks of ice which were too fragile to 
have acquired any great solidity; and he only exhausted 
his strength in his vain efforts to raise himself, for the ice 
yielded whenever he rested any weight upon it. In fact, 
the sharpshooter had not exaggerated when he declared that 
only the man's head was visible; and yet, the brave mes- 
senger had not uttered a cry or an appeal for aid. 

Podensac reached him with three or four bounds and 
offered him a hand. 

There was a moment of agonizing suspense, for Eoger 
feared that Bourdier had not sufficient strength left to avail 
himself of the proffered aid; but he soon saw him slowly 
emerge from the hole, place one knee upon the ice, and 
then scramble out. 

Both men were fortunate enough to escape the bullets 
that were falling like hail around them, and in five min- 
utes they were both safe under the protecting shelter of the 
arch, where Roger impetuously embraced his friend, and 
warmly thanked Podensac, who again gave orders for im- 
mediate departure. 

The perilous journey was ended; and Lieutenant de 
Saint Senier's heart throbbed wildly at the thought of soon 
seeing Renee again. 

" But who could have told the sharpshooters not to kill 



378 THE RED BAND. 

me?" he said to himself, gazing thoughtfully at Regina, 
who was walking quietly along beside him. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

A two days' journey is. sometimes attended with more 
adventures than would be needed to enliven the history of 
a trip around the world, for there are times which are espe- 
cially fertile in startling events. 

During the siege of Paris, for example, the adventures 
that befell a person in an attempt to make his way through 
the Prussian lines were sometimes more numerous and 
startling than those of a journey from Marseilles to Japan. 

This was certainly the experience of Eoger de Saint 
Senier- and Regina, and all the thrilling adventures that 
had befallen them occurred while two or three compara- 
tively unimportant events were happening to their friends 
in Paris. On the same night the fugitives were traversing 
the forest of Saint Germain, Renee de Saint Senier and her 
aunt left the cottage on the Eue de Laval to take up their 
abode in Dr. Molinchard's private hospital, and by a 
strange coincidence, at the very moment that Eegina, worn 
out with fatigue, was sleeping away the morning in the 
blue room at the mill, Renee, a prisoner at Montmartre, 
was just sinking into a heavy slumber. 

And J. B. Frapillon, her dastardly persecutor, left the 
editorial rooms of the " Serpenteau " just as Pierre Bour- 
dier was arousing his two traveling companions to inform 
them of the necessity of immediate departure. 

But J. B. Frapillon, as he wended his way majestically 
to a neighboring restaurant, accompanied by M. Antoine 
Pilevert, little suspected that some of the other victims of 
his machinations were slowly but surely making their way 
toward Paris. In fact, he had almost forgotten the exist- 
ence of the young lieutenant captured by the Prussians 
during the month of October, and he also supposed himself 



THE HED BAND. 379 

well rid of the deaf and dumb girl Mouchabeuf had so 
cleverly disposed of to Corporal Tichdorf a few days af fcer- 
ward. 

J. B. Frapillon was an eminently practical man, and 
when he supposed any troublesome persons safely out of 
his way he troubled himself no more about them than a 
chess-player troubles himself about the captured pieces re- 
moved from the board; besides, his mind just now was en- 
grossed with much more important matters, for the critical 
moment when diplomatists of his stamp are reluctantly 
compelled to resort to violent measures was fast approach- 
ing. 

Strongly inclined by nature to employ persuasion rather 
than coercion, he scrupulously avoided any open violation 
of the criminal code; and when any such infraction became 
absolutely necessary, he always confided the execution of it 
to some subordinate, as in the present instance, when he 
made his agent, Mouchabeuf, responsible for the abduction 
and imprisonment of Mile, de Saint Senier, for nothing 
would have induced him to run any risk of a compulsory 
voyage to Cayenne. 

But the hour for parleying and for half measures had 
gone by. 

The imprisonment of his victims could not be prolonged 
indefinitely, and before deciding their fate he must learn 
something more about the mystery connected with the cot- 
tage. This was a mystery that must be solved before he 
could decide upon his future course, and the present was an 
excellent opportunity, as his accomplices of both sexes were 
not only occupied with other matters, but were even igno- 
rant of the ladies' abduction. He had in his pocket the 
keys of the cottage, taken from poor Jtenee during the un- 
natural slumber that had resulted from the opiate adminis- 
tered by his orders, so there was nothing to prevent him 
from taking the matter into his own hands, and from bold- 
ly breaking the articles that punish house-breaking, theft 



3S0 THE KED BAND. 

and murder, for the execution of his j)lans would compel 
him to commit at least one of these offenses, and possibly 
all. 

This depended entirely upon what he would find in the 
deserted cottage. 

Now J. B. Frapillon's conscience troubled him very 
little, but the safety of his own precious self was a matter 
of immense importance, and for this reason he had re- 
solved to secure the services of a body-guard strong enough 
to protect him and unscrupulous enough to obey unques- 
tioningly. 

Antoine Pilevert possessed these all-important requisites, 
and Frapillon, blessing the lucky fate that had brought 
them together in the office of the " Serpenteau/' instantly 
resolved to secure the acrobat's good will by one of those 
tempting invitations to which Pilevert could never turn a 
deaf ear. 

A good dinner, accompanied with plenty of wine, would 
attract Eose de Charmiere's brother anywhere, and this 
case proved no exception to the rule. 

The restaurant selected by Frapillon was noted for its 
extensive and well-chosen wine-cellar, and the host had con- 
siderable difficulty in preventing his guest from pausing in 
the bar-room connected with the establishment; but he 
finally succeeded in dragging him up the staircase leading 
to the private rooms above. 

Though he had excellent eyesight, and prided himself 
upon his keen powers of perception, the diplomatist of the 
Rue Cadet had failed to notice that a lad had followed 
them from the Rue "Montorgueil to the door of the restaur- 
ant; nor did he perceive that the same unprepossessing 
young rascal still kept close upon their heels as they made 
their way through the crowded bar-room. 

The room that was placed at the disposal of J. B. Fra- 
pillon and his guest was not remarkably elegant in its ap- 
pointments. The paper that covered the walls would not 



THE RED BAND. 381 

have looked out of place in a village inn, the linen was 
neither dazzling in its whiteness, or very fine in quality, 
while the glasses were remarkable chiefly for their size and 
thickness. 

Still, it was not necessary to dazzle the eyes of Pilevert, 
but merely to unloose his tongue and gain his favor, and 
to do this Frapillon relied chiefly upon a supply of bottles 
proportionate to the insatiable thirst of his guest, though 
the other essentials of an excellent repast were not want- 
ing. 

" Ah, well, my dear Antoine," remarked the host, in an 
almost affectionate tone, as the dessert was placed upon the 
table, " how do you like your new situation?" 

" I don't like it at all," was the prompt rejoinder. 

" Indeed! Why, you really surprise me. I thought you 
had a capital place on the staff." 

"A capital place, indeed! For a paltry ten francs a 
day and a dozen glasses of beer I am expected to remain 
from morning until night in a miserable chicken coop 
where I can scarcely get my breath, talking to a crowd of 
fools who overwhelm me with complaints I don't under- 
stand a word of. If I could only break their heads for 
them, it wouldn't matter so much, but — " 

" That certainly would be some consolation," inter- 
rupted Frapillon; " but I am quite sure that you can have 
no just grounds of complaint against my friends Valnoir 
and Taupier." 

" Humph! nice fellows they are! Your Valnoir, a con- 
ceited fop who puts on no end of airs, though I could knock 
him down with two fingers of my left hand! and that 
miserable little hunchback who is always taking me to task 
for drinking too much. If it wasn't for Catiche — " 

" And who is Catiche?" 
i " Why, Rose, to be sure." 

" Can it be that you are speaking of Mme. de Char-* 
miere?" inquired Frapillon, feigning intense surprise. 

5-3(1 half, 



382 THE RED BAND. 

" I certainly have a right to, as she is my sister — yes, 
my sister, and I must say that for a sister she is already 
beginning to treat me very shabbily. Ah! if I only had 
my little Eegina! How devoted she was to me — and how 
kind — not the least bit stuck up." 

And overcome with grief at the recollection of the loss 
he had sustained, the Eampart of Avallon leaned his head 
upon his hand and heaved a sigh that was very like a 
groan, little suspecting that he was expressing his regret in 
the presence of his dear protegee's bitterest persecutor. 

".^No!" he exclaimed, suddenly, striking the table vio- 
lently with his clinched fist, " I'll stand it no longer. I've 
had enough of their office where they keep me cooped up 
all day, and of their society of the ' Moon with the Teeth,' 
where they make speeches three hours long without treat- 
ing to even so much as a glass of beer. " 

" My dear Antoine, you are going a little too far, it 
seems to me. These gentlemen are friends of mine, 
and — " 

" Friends!" interrupted the now thoroughly exasperated 
athlete. " They are no friends of yours, or of mine, I can 
tell you. "Would you like to know what your Valnoir and 
Taupier said about you only yesterday?" 

" No." 

"I'm going to tell you, anyhow. They say you have 
appropriated all the funds of their society, and this evening 
at their club of water-drinkers, they are first going to call 
for your report, and then haul you over the coals after- 
ward. It seems they know where the money is, and they 
intend to take possession of it. I like my wagon a great 
deal better than their old office, and I'd do anything in 
the Avorld for the man who would give me back my wagon 
and my good mare Bradamante. " 

J. B. Frapillon. listened to these incoherent complaints 
with deep interest, for the revelation the acrobat had just 
made affected him deeply. All Frapillon lived for was 



THE RED BAND. 383 

money, and he had no intention of allowing it to be taken 
from him. 

He thought the matter over as he slowly sipped his last 
glass of wine, and his plans were made before it was 
emptied. 

" My dear friend/' he said, affectionately, "lam truly 
grieved to learn of your disappointment, though one 
could hardly expect a man of your spirit and talent to mope 
forever in an office. I am not rich, whatever people may 
say to the contrary, but if a couple of thousand francs will 
set you up in your old business again you "shall have the 
money." 
v "Truly?" 

" Upon my word of honor!" 

" Great Jupiter!" exclaimed Pilevert, evidently strongly 
inclined to throw his arms around Frapillon's neck. " What 
do you want me to demolish for you? Do you want any 
one summarily disposed of? You have only to say so. " 

" Thanks, my friend, thanks! The offer was not made 
from selfish motives, and I don't want any one killed or 
even knocked down, but as you seem desirous of doing me 
a favor, I am going to ask you to keep me company the 
rest of the evening. We will go first to the meeting of the 
society. " 

" So that is all. Very well, the first person that dares 
to say a word against you will get a black eye, that's all I 
have to say." 

" I hope we shall not be obliged to resort to such violent 
measures, and that we shall afterward be able to go — " 

"Where?" 

" Somewhere else," replied Frapillon, laconically. " It 
is eight o'clock, and we must be off, I'll pay at the desk 
as I go out," 



384 THE RED BAND. 



CHAPTER XX. 



The hall where the " Society of the Moon with the Teeth ' ' 
held its meetings was on the outer boulevard, in a neigh- 
borhood where the society could count many adherents. 

These meetings were sometimes public and sometimes 
private, according as the leading spirits of the association 
wished to inspire the members with fresh enthusiasm by 
their eloquence, or merely to discuss the condition of the 
society in a sort of family conclave. The surest means of 
overthrowing the government, destroying the capital, and 
of securing an equal division of property were discussed 
only in secret session, to which admission could be secured 
only by giving the password. 

J. B. Frapillon was a regular attendant of all the public 
meetings, and seldom failed to attend the secret sessions. 

On leaving the restaurant where he had dined in com- 
pany with the former acrobat, he was ignorant of the nature 
of the meeting appointed for that evening, but Pilevert's 
revelations led him to suppose that the session was to be a 
secret one, so on reaching the hall he was considerably sur- 
prised to find quite a crowd assembled in front of the main 
entrance, and this being the case, both Frapillon and his 
companion failed to notice the presence of the gamin who 
had followed them from the Eue Montorgueil to the res- 
taurant, and from the restaurant to the meeting of the 
political club. 

The assemblage was large, and extremely interesting on 
account of its motley character. 

Members of the National Guard seemed to form a hand- 
some majority, but women were not wanting. Some must 
even have been in the habit of spending their evenings 
here, for they had brought their work with them, like the 
tricotetises of the Jacobin Club, 



1HE RED BANb. 38o" 

The meeting was presided over by Taupier, whose dis- 
torted and grotesque form was almost hidden by the two 
militiamen who acted as his assistants. 

On perceiving the hunchback, Pilevert uttered a series of 
growls that the prudent Frapillon promptly suppressed, in 
order to avoid attracting the attention of his neighbors, but 
his ill -humor reasserted itself when he saw the lank form 
of his former pupil appear upon the platform. 

The public did not seem to share his disgust, however, 
for a flattering murmur greeted the new orator. 

" That is the young fellow who explains the justice and 
necessity of dividing the aristocrats' money," remarked one 
of the audience. 

" Oh, yes, the fellow that talks like a streak of light- 
ning," replied another. " He is right, but he uses so many 
big words that he puzzles me." 

" It is plain enough though that if we do as he says we 
shall each have an income of six thousand francs. " 

" Without doing anything?" 

" Without lifting a finger. It is the rich who will have 
to work, 'then/' 

" Citizen Alcindor Panaris will now address the meet- 
ing," announced Taupier, who took a very evident pride 
in the exercise of his functions. 

Citizen Alcindor balanced himself first upon one long 
leg and then upon the other, and passed his hand over his 
long thin hair like a guest who is preparing to enter a ball- 
room. On hearing his name from the lips of the president 
he stepped forward with all the grace of which he was 
capable, and placing one hand on the table, said in his 
most persuasive voice: 

" Fellow citizens!" 

But ho had scarcely uttered the words when a confused 
murmur arose at the further end of the hall, and a man 
was seen endeavoring to force his way through the crowd, 
while on every side resounded such exclamations as: 



386 THE BED BAND. 

" Take care!" 

" You're stepping on my toes, citizen." 

" Don't crowd so!" 

" What does he want, anyhow?" 

The person who caused all this commotion seemed to 
trouble himself very little about the dissatisfaction he was 
creating and the anathemas lavished upon him in his pas- 
sage, and finally succeeded, by dint of vigorous pushing and 
an occasional resort to blows, in reaching the platform, 
where he whispered a few words in the ear of the president, 
who seemed to listen to him with quite a show of deference. 

The audience evidently expected an explanation, and 
Taupier soon gave it in these words : 

" Citizens," he said, rising, " a member of the National 
Guard desires to make a very important announcement to 
you." 

" Speak! speak!" resounded from every part of the 
hall. 

" Citizens, " began the member of the National Guard 
to whom Taupier had just yielded the floor, to the very 
evident dissatisfaction of Alcindor, " Citizens,' I have 
glorious news for you. I come to announce a great victory 
won by the Army of the Loire — a brilliant victory! The 
Prussians left thirty thousand men dead upon the field, and 
fifteen thousand men were taken prisoners. The rest fled, 
and Frederick Charles was killed!" 

With the wild commotion and shouts of joy that followed 
this startling announcement were mingled such skeptical 
exclamations as, " Another canard." 

" Fifteen thousand prisoners! The same old story/' 

Frapillon, though naturally incredulous, contented him- 
self with shrugging his shoulders, however, but the acro- 
bat, who was only a lukewarm patriot, muttered : 

" What do I care about Frederick Charles? This vic- 
tory won't give me back my wagon and Bradamante." 
.. President Taupier seemed to share the surprise of the 



THE ltKD BAND. 387 

audience, and now rose to request the bearer of this glori- 
ous news for proofs of the accuracy of his statements. 

" Citizens," added the new-comer, hastily, " I should fail 
in my duty toward the people if I omitted to tell you how 
I heard of this victory won by our brothers-in-arms. " 

"Yes! yes!" 

"Listen! Silence!" 

" I was on guard this evening at the Porte d'Asnieres, 
when the bearer of this news presented himself. The 
pontlevis was lowered by the commandant's order, and the 
brave courier was conducted to the office of the governor- 
general, but he had time to give us the particulars before 
he left." 

" Your courier must have come in a balloon then." 

This satirical remark only produced a fresh burst of elo- 
quence from the orator, however. 

" No, citizens," he exclaimed. " The messenger did not 
come in a balloon. He had made his way with infinite 
difficulty through the Prussian lines, and was received with 
open arms by the Enfants Perdus of the Rue Maubuee, 
whose leader honors me with his friendship." 

This time no unseemly jest marred the exultant chorus 
that resounded on every side. 

Even Erapillon was almost convinced. 

Meanwhile the new-comer, highly elated by his success as 
a public speaker, showed no inclination to leave the plat- 
form, and apparently had other revelations to make. 

" Go on! go on!" shouted the audience. 

" This hero," continued the speaker, " brought back 
with him an officer in the Garde Mobile, who was wounded 
and taken prisoner about two months ago — an officer and a 
young woman about whom there seems to be some mystery, 
for she did not reply to a single one of the questions [that 
were addressed to her by the citizens at the post." 

A vague uneasiness assailed Frapillon, but he said to 
himself that there could not possibly be any connection be- 



388 THE BED BAND. 

tween his former victims and the persons who figured in 
this highly improbable story. 

" What a fool I am!" he thought, shrugging his shoul- 
ders. " Saint Senier died in the hospital at Saint Germain, 
and the deaf and dumb girl is safe in Prussia/' 

" But, citizens," continued the orator, " important as is 
the news I bring to you I should not have ventured to ask 
your attention if I had not a proposal to make to you." 

" Go ahead! go ahead!" 

" Let's hear it!" 

" Hold your tongues, you idiots, if you want the man to 
explain. " 

" It is this, citizens. It seems that the Prussians who 
are besieging us have heard of Frederick Charles's defeat, 
and are positively panic-stricken, so I have come here, 
citizens, to propose a sortie in force. " 

The speaker had hardly uttered these words when an in- 
describable tumult arose in the crowd. 

" Yes, yes, in force," shouted the throng, wildly, for 
five months of disappointment and failure had not lessened 
the power of those oft-quoted words. 

" On to Berlin! On to Berlin!" yelled the gamin who 
had followed Frapillon and his companion into the hall. 

" And why not, citizens? Why should we not pursue 
these upholders of tyranny to their homes? Let us make 
this sortie to-morrow morning! Let us show them what it 
is to make war upon a free people. " 

"Bravo! bravo!" 

" And now," continued the orator, " now, in order that 
the army may have no share in the glory — in order that 
the civil element, which is now held as naught, but which 
should be paramount, may secure recognition — in order, I 
repeat, that to the civil element alone may belong the glory 
of having saved the country — I ask that this society declare 
itself a permanent institution, and that a register be opened 
to record the names of such courageous citizens here present 



THE RED BAND. 380 

as may desire to inscribe them there, and that the sortie be 
made to-morrow morning, in force, as soon as the gates of 
the city are opened." 

This last proposal was greeted with frantic applause, and 
when the huge register, which had already figured more 
than once in demonstrations of this kind was placed on the 
desk, the enthusiasm of the audience knew no bounds. 

Every one was rushing forward to record their names, 
when a woman, who was sitting in the gallery, rose, and 
planting her hands on her hips, called out in a shrill voice: 

" Xone of that! We know you. You'll sneak out the 
side door as soon as you've signed your names. That won't 
do! I move that all who really mean business take their 
places on the platform behind the desk." 

Though this suggestion was not at all to the tasfce of 
many of the audience, the women present approved it so 
heartily that the masculine element dared not object. 

Taupier opened his register, and the defile of the future 
heroes began. 

" All this won't amount to anything," muttered Frapil- 
lon. And the remark certainly showed a profound knowl- 
edge of the human heart, for before a quarter of an hour 
had elapsed the woman in the gallery shouted, in tones of 
thunder: 

" The cowards! There's a door behind the platform, 
and they are sneaking out of it whenever they get a 
chance." 

This revelation was the signal for a frightful uproar. 

Taupier rose majestically and declared the meeting ad- 
journed, and Frapillon in company with Pilevert, beat a 
hasty retreat, though he was firmly resolved to find out if 
the public meeting was to be followed by a secret session. 
He was still standing in the midst of the crowd, undecided 
what course to pursue, when he saw Taupier forcing his 
way through the throng, only a few steps from him, closely 
followed by the long, lank form of Alcindor. 



390 THE BED BAND. 

"Where the deuce are they going in such hot haste?" 
muttered Frapillon, " I must find out before I go to the 
Eue de Laval. Make haste, Pilevert, for I don't want to 
lose sight of them. They may turn into one of the small 
streets leading to the heights, and in that case we should 
find it impossible to overtake them. " 

"Oh! if that's all that troubles you, you need have no 
fear, for I know where they're going. They're going to a 
sort of den not far from here, where they hold the private 
meeting of the 'Full Moon,' as they call it, once a week 
now. " 

" Impossible! I should certainly have heard of it." 

" No; they distrust you, and it was that rascal Alcindor 
who suggested this arrangement." 

" That is something worth knowing," muttered Frapil- 
lon. " But how is it? Are you admitted?" 

" Yes, and no. I am obliged to stand guard sometimes. 
In fact I received orders to come this evening, but it's no 
fun to stay there until two or three o'clock in the morning, 
and I don't intend to do anything of the kind. I'm not go- 
ing to have anything more to do with them. I'll be hanged 
if I am." 

" You can sever your relations with them to-morrow, 
my dear Antoine, but this evening I want you to conduct 
me to the place in question." 

" I've no objections, I'm sure. It's only a few steps 
from here, but you must look out for yourself, for they 
hate you like poison. " 

" I'm not afraid of them. Go ahead!" 

" All right," responded the former acrobat, with a sigh, 
thinking of the comfortable bed that awaited him in a 
neighboring street, and the consoling pipe he would have 
smoked upon it. 

I The thoughts that engrossed J. B. Frapillon just at that 
moment were of a far more serious nature, for he was be- 
ginning to be really alarmed by the proceedings of his asso- 



THE KED BAND. 391 

ciates, and. this change in the place of their private meet- 
ings was not a good omen by any means. There must be 
grave reasons for their keeping these meetings a secret from 
him, the treasurer of the society and a member of the board 
of directors; but this made it all the more necessary for 
him to put an end to this unsatisfactory state of affairs, and 
he considered himself quite capable of intimidating his en- 
emies. 

About half-way up a narrow street that was lighted by 
only a single gas-jet, Pilevert paused in front of an open 
door leading into an alley, and remarked : 

" Here it is!" 

" Where? I see nothing." 

" You will presently/ ' responded the acrobat, with alow 
chuckle. " Take hold of the end of my blouse, and walk 
softly. " 

Prapillon was no lover of darkness, and for an instant he 
felt strongly tempted to abandon the enterprise; but he had 
gone too far to recoil; besides, he fancied he heard some 
one coming down the street, and he did not care to meet 
any one in such a piace; so he concluded to follow Pilevert 
into the dark and slippery alley, where he could touch the 
wall on either side of him. 

"Be careful now; we are coming to a flight of steps/' 
said his companion. 
\ " It must be into a cellar that you are taking me, then. " 

" Exactly, and an odd kind of a cellar at that." 

His guide was even now cautiously making his way down 
a winding staircase that was even darker than the alley, 
and Frapillon, who did not let go his hold on his compan- 
ion's blouse, counted nineteen steps before he reached a 
door through which a faint glimmer of light stole out. 

Pilevert was only obliged to give it a slight push to make 
it turn noiselessly upon its hinges, and the two new arrivals 
found themselves in the presence of a man who was reading 
beside a small table, by the uncertain light of an oil-lamp. 



392 THE RED BAND. 

" Why, is this you, citizen?" he remarked, gravely, on 
perceiving Pilevert. " I thought you were not coming this 
evening?" 

" There seems to have been some misunderstanding. I 
am here, as you see." 

" But you are not alone, and — " 

Frapillon did not consider it necessary to waste time in 
talking to this man, who was no other than the venerable 
Bourignard, the servant and concierge of Valnoir, who had 
summoned him from the Eue de Navarre, in order to pre- 
vent any intrusion into the private session of the " Full 
Moon," so the diplomatist of the Rue Cadet suddenly dis- 
closed to view a badge that seemed to inspire the concierge 
with profound awe. 

" A member of the board of directors!" he exclaimed, 
as he glanced at the badge that Frapillon thrust under his 
nose. " Excuse me, citizen, I was so absorbed in one of 
the works of the great Saint Just that I — ' ' 

" Never mind, never mind/' interrupted the former 
acrobat, "111 show the gentleman in." 

As he spoke he lifted a portiere that concealed a door 
leading into a narrow passage. At the further end of the 
passage was another door, on the other side of which the 
council was evidently in progress, for the sound of an ani- 
mated discussion reached Frapillon's ears. 

He was separated from the speakers only by a thin door, 
and there was nothing to prevent him from listening, for 
he never sacrificed his interests for the sake of any foolish 
scruples. 

He could hear the voices of the speakers, and even their 
words as distinctly as if he had been in the room, and he 
was not obliged to use his ears long to find out that they 
were talking about him. From the excited tones of the 
speakers, he felt satisfied that the discussion must have 
been going on for some time, and that Taupier and Alcin- 
dor had not arrived until after the session was partially 



THE RED BAND. 393 

over. They seemed inclined to make up for lost time, 
however, for the first voice that reached Frapillon's ears 
was the voice of the hunchback. 

" We had better settle the matter this very night," he 
heard Taupier remark. 

"But not until after we have given him a hearing, " 
drawled Alcindor. 

" And why should we grant him a hearing? We did try 
to question him in the office this afternoon, you recollect, 
and you know how much satisfaction we got. " 

" Still, I should do it, if only for appearance's sake," 
insisted Pilevert's former pupil. 

A more refined voice put an end to a discussion which 
threatened to degenerate into a quarrel — a voice Frapillon 
instantly recognized as that of his friend Valnoir. 

" The fact is, you want to compel the treasurer of the 
society to render an account of his stewardship, doyou not?" 
inquired the editor-in-chief of the " Serpenteau. " 

" Yes, yes!" replied the others, in chorus. 

" That is all very well; but permit me to say that you 
will not be much better off if you succeed. It isn't the ac- 
counts that you want to see, but the money." 

" I'll pay you for that, you scoundrel," muttered Fra- 
pillon, who had not lost a syllable of the conversation. 

" That is what we do want, of course," replied Taupier, 
" and if I had not been obliged to preside over that crowd 
of idiots this evening I might have saved you any further 
trouble, for I know a way to get hold of the money." 

Frapillon muttered an oath, and stepped a little closer to 
the door. 

" About how much do you suppose this paragon of a 
treasurer has had the handling of since the founding of the 
society?" continued the hunchback. 

" At least three hundred thousand francs," cried four or 
five members, simultaneously. 

" Ah, well, the honest man in quest ; on purchased last 



394 THE KED BAND. 

week three bonds, yielding a yearly dividend of six thousand 
francs each, which would represent about the sum you men- 
tion, and I know where these bonds axe." 

This revelation was greeted by a murmur of mingled de- 
light and disapproval. 

" These securities Were placed in a carefully locked port- 
folio," continued Taupier, " and intrusted to the keeping 
of a quack doctor, named Molinchard, who resides in this 
neighborhood. What I would propose is this: By this time 
our treasurer must be sleeping the sleep of the just in his 
house on the Eue Cadet, like the model citizen he pretends 
to be. His mind is perfectly easy, for he feels sure that he 
has deposited his spoils in a safe place; and when Paris 
capitulates, as it must in a few days, he will deny that he 
ever had any such property in his possession, and you must 
realize the utter uselessness of appealing to the courts for 
redress. This being the case, I know of but one means of 
obtaining justice, and that is to take the law into your own 
hands." 

" That would not be a very easy matter, it seems to me," 
remarked Valnoir. 

" On the contrary, there would not be the slightest diffi- 
culty under the circumstances. We have here a number of 
blank receipts bearing Frapillon's signature. Above his 
name I will write a few words in our friend's handwriting 
— such, for instance, as: ' Give the red portfolio to the 
bearer of this note. ' I'll take this order to Molinchard, 
who lives only a few steps from here, and in an hour, at the 
very latest, I will bring you the securities." 

" You shall pay dearly for this, you scoundrel," mut- 
tered Frapillon, clinching his fists savagely. 

Contrary to Taupier's expectations, this proposal was 
not very enthusiastically received, The majority, indeed, 
maintained a prudent silence that did not indicate much 
confidence in Taupier' s probity, One of the members 
present even went so far as i»;say; 



a 



THE BED BAND. o9'5 

" I think it would be advisable to appoint three delegates 
for this mission." 

" Just as you please/' replied the hunchback, promptly. 

I am not quick to take offense when the interests of the 
society are at stake, and the precaution does not wound me. 
Choose my fellow-delegates, and hand me one of those re- 
ceipts, so I can write the note to Mohnchard. " 

This was too much. Frapillon could contain himself no 
longer; and, dashing open the door, he presented himself 
to the wondering gaze of the members of the board of di- 
rectors. 

His sudden appearance before them produced very much 
the effect of the famous head of Medusa. Each person re- 
mained in the same attitude as before the shock came. 
Valnoir was leaning back in an arm-chair; Alcindor was 
standing, and Taupier was leaning over the table to per- 
petrate the forgery he meditated. Of the others present, 
those who were terrified by this sudden intrusion hung their 
heads, and those of a more irascible temperament faced the 
intruder defiantly. 

The scene was certainly well worth contemplating, 
especially as a long table strewn with papers and mugs of 
beer imparted to it a slight resemblance to Belshazzar's 
famous feast. 

But J. B. Frapillon, who played the part of celestial 
vengeance in this case, assumed no undue severity of mien. 
While he was listening at the door, he had had plenty of 
time to decide upon his course, and he had resolved to use 
persuasion if possible. 

" Why, how odd you all look!" he exclaimed, with a cold 
laugh that made the flesh of his auditors creep. 

The hunchback, who had regained his self-possession in 
some measure, came to the assistance of his terrified com- 
panions, 

" We were not expecting you, you know/' he began; 
il and in times like these — " 



396 THE RED BAND. 

" You are in constant fear of the police, of course; but 
why didn't you tell me that you were holding your private 
meetings here?" 

This question was put in a low tone of careless good-hu- 
mor, which would have deceived any one, no matter how 
suspicious he might naturally be. 

" You see, we couldn't meet in the usual place on the 
evening of a public meeting," began Valnoir. 

" It seems to me that it wouldn't have been the first 
time, however, as the side-door is there by which to re- 
enter the hall after the crowd has passed out." 

"I heard that the police had been ordered to keep an eye 
on us," growled Taupier, " and so — " 

" Oh, it's a matter of no consequence whatever. The 
new quarters seem admirably chosen, and as our friend 
Pilevert was able to guide me here, it is all for the 
best." 

" So it was that brute who told you — " 

Valnoir, who had rashly allowed this exclamation to es- 
cape his lips, checked himself just in time. 

Frapillon showed no signs of having heard him, but re- 
marked, with marvelous calmness: 

" I was very fortunate in meeting our mutual friend; for 
I felt quite anxious to see you again, as you must, of course, 
understand." 

" And why?" inquired the hunchback, insolently. 

"Why? Why, to complete the explanation I began in 
your office to-day." 

" What explanation?" asked Valnoir, greatly surprised. 

" Why, you were telling me only to-day that the society 
desired a statement of its financial condition, and of course 
I am anxious to render it without delay." 

" Oh, you can take your time," stammered the editor- 
in-chief of the " Serpenteau." " There's no hurry — " 
ft f ' I am not a journalist, my dear friend, but a practical 
business man; and I can not treat money matters lightly; 



THE BED BAND. 397 

besides, I am anxious to vindicate myself, as I have been 
denounced — " 

"Denounced is not exactly the word/' muttered the 
hunchback. 

" Denounced or accused, call it whichever you please. I 
am not so particular about my choice of words, and I do not 
even ask who doubts my honesty, though I have my sus- 
picions. As I told you this afternoon," exclaimed Frapillou, 
" I intended to put my accounts in order without delay, and 
I should have brought them here this evening, and the 
funds of the society as well, if my time had not been occu- 
pied with other matters ever since our conversation. In 
the first place, after leaving you, I had a long controversy 
with two men who had sworn to exterminate our friend 
Valnoir. If it had been simply a case of pacifying them on 
account of your recent attack upon the army, I should have 
allowed them to settle the matter with Master Antoine 
here, but their grievance seemed to be in some way con- 
nected with your late duel at Saint Germain. They spoke 
of proofs, and talked of complaining to the authorities, and 
our friend Taupier's name was also mixed up in the mat- 
ter. I calmed them by telling them that you were ill, and 
asking them to call again in three days. ' ' 

" And these persons were — " 

"A; civilian and a soldier about whom you need not 
trouble yourself in the least, however; for I have found a 
means of preventing their threatened visit, for / do not de- 
sert my friends, as you know very well. " 

The emphasis placed upon the word / lessened the hos- 
tility of Valnoir and Taupier very perceptibly, for they felt 
that their secret wasinFrapillon's hands, and that it would 
not do to go too fan 

" The society desires a statement of its financial condi- 
tion, I understand/' resumed Frapillon. " I am ready to 
give it, and will do so to-morrow evening; but in the mean- 
time, I can tell you how these funds are invested. Th« 



398 THE RED BAND. 

money has been converted temporarily into bonds which I 
have deposited in a bank for safe-keeping.'" 

Taupier could hardly repress a grimace of disappointment. 

" Yes," repeated Frapillon, looking him full in the 
face, " I intrusted them first to a friend, but thinking 
afterward that a bank would be the safest place in a time 
like this, I took them there this very morning. " 

" We will take your word for it. We do not ask to see 
them," said "Valnoir, timidly, casting a furtive glance at 
his companions. 

" Whether you do or not, I intend to resign them to 
your|charge. I do not like to be suspected, so I must ask 
the board to be kind enough to choose another treasurer. " 

This unexpected request produced the effect intended. 
Murmurs of approval, followed by energetic protests, re- 
sounded on every side, and Alcindor, who had held his peace 
up to this time, for a wonder, now felt himself called upon 
to give voice to the sentiments of the assembly. 

" Ca3sar," he began in his most impressive tones, " de- 
clared that his wife must be above suspicion. It is the 
same feeling doubtless that prompts our worthy friend Citi- 
zen Frapillon — " 

But his little speech was brought to an abrupt termina- 
tion by the entrance of Pilevert, who rushed into the room 
shouting — " The police! the police!" 

The members of the society sprung to their feet as if they 
had received an electric shock. Some disappeared under 
the table, others rushed wildly around the room, while the 
bravest sprung forward to bar the passage of an imaginary 
enemy. 

Frapillon, however, being an eminently practical man, 
was already questioning Antoine about the invasion that 
seemed to threaten the " Full Moon " with an untimely 
eclipse. 

" What is the matter, idiot?" he asked, departing from 
his usually urbane manner. 



THE RED RAND. o'd'd 

" The police!" gasped the terrified acrobat. 

" You said so before; but where are they?" 

" I swear I heard — " 

"Heard what?" 

" The rallying cry of the police. " 

"You certainly have lost your senses. It doesn't mat- 
ter, however. I'll go and see for myself," he added, push- 
ing Antoine aside. 

" Stay where you are, all the rest of you, until I come 
back," he added, as he left the room. 

This injunction seemed superfluous, however, as the room 
occupied by the conspirators had no other outlet than the 
passage into which Frapillon had just stepped. Pilevert 
concluded to follow his patron, and in another minute both 
men found themselves in the little ante-chamber where they 
had left Bourignard. 

Frapillon had only to glance at that worthy to perceive 
that he was a prey to the most profound terror. He was 
trembling like a leaf, and the works of the great Saint Just 
were lying unnoticed at his feet. Something of a most ap- 
palling nature must certainly have happened, still Frapillon 
heard nothing or saw nothing alarming. 

"I really believe you must all have gone mad!" he 
growled. 

This uncomplimentary remark had hardly passed his lips, 
When a voice only a few feet from him exclaimed — 

" I arrest you in the name of the law." 

Frapillon turned in the twinkling of an eye, but no 
human being was visible. The voice seemed to proceed 
from the staircase — a deep bass voice that its possessor 
seemed desirous of making as terrible as possible. 

" Do you hear that?" moaned the terrified Bourignard. 

" Yes, I do. It is only some one trying to play a joke 
on you," said Frapillon, who was sufficiently familiar with 
the habits of the police to know that they did not announce 
their visits in such a boisterous manner. 



400 THE RED BAND. 

" Surrender!" cried the mysterious voice. 

But this time the hoax was apparent, for the deep bass 
voice had suddenly turned into a shrill falsetto. 

Frapillon felt convinced that the owner of it was merely 
some mischievous gamin, and instantly made a rush for 
the stairs, calling to Pilevert as he did so — 

" Come and help me catch him!" 

It is not a very easy matter to run up a winding stair- 
case, and just as they set foot in the alley the urchin darted 
into the street, and though Frapillon reached the open door 
with a couple of bounds, he could see in the dim distance 
only an indistinct form that kept close in the shadow of the 
houses. 

" It isn't worth while to take any more trouble for the 
sake of a mere boy," growled Frapillon. 

" He certainly can boast of having given us a fine scare," 
gasped Antoine, who was puffing and blowing in a fashion 
that showed that running was not a favorite pastime with 
him. 

ii Speak for yourself, if you please." 

" Yes, for myself, and the others down there. Suppose 
we leave them awhile just to see what they will do?" 

This proposal was not at all displeasing to Frapillon. 
He had already had a little time for reflection, and he said 
to himself that he would be very foolish not to take advan- 
tage of this excellent opportunity to cut his explanation 
short. Once before that day a plausible excuse had present- 
ed itself for putting an abrupt end to an embarrassing situa- 
tion, and this impromptu departure would prevent any pos- 
sible unpleasantness, so there was nothing to prevent him 
from enjoying the mischievous pleasure of leaving the mem- 
bers of the society a prey to abject terror. Moreover, the 
time had at last come for a much more important under- 
taking. 

"Now, my brave fellow, the time for winning Brada- 
mante has come," he said, gravely. 



THE BED BANT>. 401 

" That suits me!" cried Antoine enthusiastically. 

"Come, then." 

" Where are we going?" 

" Only a few steps from here. " 

After this brief dialogue, the two men hastened toward 
the boulevard without exchanging another word. 

As he crossed the Place Pigalle on his way to the Eue 
Frochot, J. B. Frapillon thought over his expedition and 
its attendant difficulties. Up to the present time all his 
efforts had proved eminently successful, and there seemed 
to be little probability that his visit to the cottage would be 
fraught with any serious danger. 

Eenee and her aunt who were prisoners in his friend 
Molinchard's establishment, gave him no uneasiness what- 
ever, and he had long since ceased to fear the natural pro- 
tectors of the Saint Senier family. 

Before turning into the Eue de Laval, however, he 
glanced behind him to make sure that he was not followed, 
but saw no one. The street was deserted, still some one 
might appear at any moment, and a long halt before the 
gate was to be avoided if possible. 

One serious difficulty attended the very beginning of the 
undertaking, for Frapillon was by no means sure that he 
should be able to open the gate. He recollected perfectly 
having seen Eenee de Saint Senier press a spring that 
opened this gate when he accompanied her to the cottage 
after their meeting on the Place Pigalle; but he did not 
know exactly where to find this spring, and any prolonged 
search for it would not only consume precious time, but be 
likely to arouse Pilevert's suspicions; aud though the acro- 
bat was by no means scrupulous, he might seriously object 
to taking any part in an attempt at housebreaking. Con- 
sequently Frapillon was anxious, if possible, to convey the 
impression that he was entering a house with which he was 
familiar or that belonged to him. 

Eesolved, therefore, to make no experiments in his 



402 THE BED BAND. 

satellite's presence if it could be avoided, he turned to him 
and remarked: 

" Say, my friend, step out into the middle of the street 
and see if any one is watching us." 

The request was promptly obeyed, and Frapillon instant- 
ly took advantage of this opportunity to search for the 
spring. The gate was adorned with several heavy iron 
knobs, and as nature had endowed Frapillon with the true 
detective instinct, he instantly suspected that the spring 
must be concealed in one of these. 

So he pressed upon them hastily, one by one, and his 
usual good luck did not desert him. 

On pressing the fourth knob the door flew open, and just 
as it yielded to Frapillon's touch, Pilevert left his post of 
observation to rejoin his superior officer. 

" Did you see any one?" inquired Frapillon. 

" I saw something black on the sidewalk at the corner of 
the Rue Frochot. I think it must be a cat or a dog. It 
certainly is not a man. I will go and see, though, if you 
want me to. " 

" It isn't worth while," replied Frapillon, motioning his 
companion to enter first. Once inside the inclosure, Fra- 
pillon felt that the time for a little diplomacy had come, 
for he could not expect Pilevert to execute his orders with- 
out some preliminary explanation. Frapillon would have 
no difficulty in inventing some plausible explanation, how- 
ever, for he was no novice in falsehood.; besides, Pilevert 
was too stupid to be very suspicious. 

He was now standing there leaning against the wall, and 
gazing abstractedly at the lindens that bordered the walk 
in front of him. 

" Does this garden belong to you?" he inquired, with a 
wondering air. 

" Yes; but I don't come here very often," replied Fra- 
pillon, " and I must have a great deal of confidence in you 
to bring you here. You can hardly fail to understand that. " 



THE RED BAND. 403 

" Eh?" said Antoine, opening his eyes wide in astonish- 
ment. 

" Listen, my dear Antoine," continued the cashier, in a 
friendly and familiar tone; " I have taken a great fancy to 
you, and I don't want to have any secrets from you. You 
see, my friend, this is the place where I keep my papers — 
all this is just between ourselves, you understand — and my 
money; for you know one can not take too many precau- 
tions in times like these." 

" You are right; for only a few minutes ago those un- 
principled journalists were talking of stealing your money 
from you." 

" Exactly; and it is chiefly on their account that I am 
obliged to guard my property so closely. In fact, I come 
here only at night, and I don't like to come alone, for the 
same reason. I have therefore resolved to make you an 
offer which I trust will prove satisfactory to you. " 

" Is it to restore Bradamante to me immediately?" 

" You know I have already promised to do that, and I 
never fail to keep my word." 

" Then you will give me — " 

" The two thousand francs? Yes, of oourse, to-morrow, 
this very night, if you like. Stop, stop, you needn't thank 
me; besides, we have no time to lose, so let me finish 
what I have to say to you. The mare and the wagon are 
yours, that is understood; but they will not be of much use 
to you at present, as you can not leave the city; so in the 
meantime I will give you some employment that will suit 
you pretty well, I fancy." 

" I should like it much better than what I am doing 
now, I am sure. " 

" I think so myself, for it is simply to guard that cottage 
you see at the end of the walk. You will have a comfort- 
able room there, and nothing to do but smoke your pipe 
and enjoy a barrel of wine that I will place in the cellar for 
your use." 



404 THE BED BAND. 

" I should say that it will suit me, then!" exclaimed Pile- 
vert. 

" Then I will install you there to-morrow." 

" And this evening?" 

" This evening you are going to do me the favor to wait 
here while I go up to the house!" 

" Shall you be gone long?" 

" Not more than an hour. I have some papers to look 
over, and I shall feel much more comfortable if I know that 
you are standing guard." 

" You needn't be afraid. No one will get in." 

" Very well. If I should need you, however, I will sum- 
mon you with this," said Frapillon, drawing a small silver 
whistle from his pocket. 

" All right, you can count upon me." 

Without vouchsafing any further explanation, Frapillon 
started up the walk, and after ascending the steps leading 
to the door of the cottage, he leisurely selected from the 
bunch of keys stolen from Eenee one that fitted the lock. 
It must be admitted that his hand trembled a little as he 
turned the key, but he had overcome similar trepidation a 
host of times, during his eventful life, and he stepped bold- 
ly into the hall, though he took care to leave the door open 
behind him in order that he might remain in communica- 
tion with his protector outside. 

He had taken the precaution to bring a candle with him, 
and drawing a box of matches from his pocket he now pro- 
ceeded to light it. 

A glance around the hall satisfied him that everything 
was exactly as he had left it the evening before. Several 
garments were hanging on the racks, and a shawl was lying 
across the back of a chair, where it had been overlooked in 
the confusion of a hurried departure. In the room, too, 
where he had first seen the Countess de Muire everything 
Was unchanged. 

The book the countess was reading when she fainted was 



THE KED BAND. 405 

still lying open upon the table, and a piece of tapestry 
work and some wools were still in the arm-chair where 
Eenee had hastily thrown them in her alarm at her aunt's 
sudden illness. 

After a quick glance around the room Frapillon left it, 
for he knew beforehand that he would not find what he 
was seeking there. 

On his first visit he had gained a pretty correct idea of 
the arrangement of the house, and knew that the first floor 
consisted of a small drawing-room — the apartment he had 
just inspected — a dining-room and another room that over- 
looked the garden. He found the door that led into this 
unlocked, and he had only to turn the knob to enter it. 

Long and narrow, and divided by a large tapestry hang- 
ing, this room had been so accurately described to him by 
Mouchabeuf that he recognized it at the first glance. 

" This is the room they took the girl from," he mut- 
tered, " and there is the window by which they made their 
escape. How strange, it is open!" 

Frapillon, surprised, and a trifle alarmed, stepped to the 
window and looked out; but seeing nothing except the leaf- 
less branches of the shrubs planted around the cottage, and 
hearing no sound, he finally concluded that the window 
must have been opened by one of the ladies who had forgot- 
ten to close it, and so troubled himself no further about 
this trifling incident. He did think strongly of closing the 
window, however, but being afraid of making a noise, he 
finally left it as he found it. 

The moment for exploring the floor above had come, 
and with his impatience to reach it was mingled a vague 
apprehension. He had been assured that a light appeared 
in the upper story every evening at a certain hour. Valnoir 
had told him something about having seen a woman kneel- 
ing beside a white curtained bed, and the young girl had 
trembled and turned pale when he spoke of paying a visit 
Jo the cottage; but though Frapillon felt sure that some 



406 THE BED BAND. 

mystery was concealed here, he had no idea of the nature 
of this mystery. This roof, so sedulously guarded from 
visitors, might shelter some person who was desirous of 
concealing himself, and who would consequently be likely 
to give any intruder a pretty warm reception. 

These uncomfortable reflections passed through his mind 
as he slowly and cautiously ascended the stairs leading to 
the floor above, but just as he reached the top of it, this 
train of thought was suddenly interrupted by a gust of wind 
that extinguished his candle. 

" All the windows in the house must be open," he mut- 
tered angrily. 

He had reached a narrow hall similar to the one in the 
story below, so he paused to strike a match, but while he 
was fumbling in his pocket for it, he fancied he perceived 
a faint light in the distance — the light of a lamp or a can- 
dle shining out from under the door of a room at the 
further end of the corridor. 

As this room was lighted, it must be occupied by some 
one, and the discovery alarmed him; still, not the slightest 
sound broke the silence that pervaded the passage. He 
could not take his eyes off the mysterious light. Indeed, it 
seemed to have a strange fascination for him, though in 
reality, he was racking his brain to discover some* plausible 
explanation of the phenomenon. The necessity of immedi- 
ate action speedily presented itself to his mind, however, 
and congratulating himself on the accident that had extin- 
guished his own candle — for he was anxious to see without 
being seen — he at last stole softly down the long corridor, 
intending to beat a hasty retreat in the darkness if neces- 
sary. 

So slow and cautious was his progress that it took him 
more than five minutes to traverse the fifteen or twenty 
feet that lay between him and the door, but he reached it 
at last, and holding his breath, he placed his ear to the 
door that separated him from the mystery. 



THE BED BAND. 407: 

It seemed to be his fate to listen at doors that night, but 
this time he was not as well paid for his trouble as at the 
rendezvous of the leading spirits of the " Moon with the 
Teeth," for though he strained his ears to the uttermost 
not a sound could he detect on the other side of the door 
against which he was leaning. 

But to his intense dismay, he heard a loud rapping at 
the garden gate, and Frapillon's heart sunk like lead; but 
to his great surprise and unspeakable relief this ominous 
sound soon ceased, and was followed by no other disturb- 
ance. Pilevert evidently had shown the good sense not to 
respond to this peremptory summons, and as it was not re- 
peated, Frapillon began to think that some mischievous or 
partially intoxicated passer-by had knocked merely for the 
fun of the thing, as rollicking collegians amuse themselves 
by pulling door-bells. 

As no sound proceeded from the chamber, Frapillon 
finally summoned up courage to apply his eye to the key- 
hole. He saw a lamp of antique form upon a table strewn 
with papers and bottles of different sizes, but the door be- 
ing near a corner of the room, the rest of the apartment 
was not visible. 

The unbroken silence that still reigned, however, at last 
began to * convince him that the room was not occupied. 
He even began to believe that the light must have been 
burning ever since the evening before, thanks to some 
peculiarity in its construction. 

Frapillon straightened himself up and reflected a mo- 
ment, and the result of this deliberation was a firm resolve 
to fathom the mystery then and there; but as he was about 
to place his hand on the knob, the door was slowly opened. 
Frapillon recoiled with such celerity that the door met with 
no resistance, and as it opened it entirely concealed the spy 
who was crouching in a corner of the passage. 

In spite of his courage and presence of mind, the nest 
moment was one of frightful anxiety. 



408 THE KED BAND. 

The door that turned so noiselessly upon its hinges had 
certainly been pushed open by the mysterious inmate of 
the chamber, and whoever he might be, his appearance 
upon the scene of action was by no means reassuring. 

The diplomatist of the Eue Cadet had no fondness for 
physical combats, and though he had a revolver in his 
pocket, he bitterly regretted his faithful Pilevert's absence. 

He even thought of whistling for him, but if there was 
to be a struggle, it would evidently be over before the 
arrival of any re-enforcements. 

So he remained perfectly quiet and motionless, and he 
certainly had no reason to repent of his prudence, for the 
protecting door moved no further. The person who had 
opened it neglected to close it, and Frapillon continued to 
enjoy the advantages of his position, for his hiding-place 
served both as a fortress and an observatory, as through 
the space left between the door and the wall he could see 
all that was passing in the corridor. 

It was not very dark in the passage, on account of the 
light that shone from the interior of the chamber, but the 
lamp was so placed that the fight did extend far beyond 
the threshold. 

The man that had emerged from the room was tall and 
rather solidly built, so far as his costume enabled one to 
judge, for he wore a long white woolen garment that en- 
veloped him from head to foot, with a hood that was drawn 
down over his eyes. His back was turned toward Frapillon 
as he walked slowly down the corridor, and he must have 
had on cloth slippers, for no footfall was audible as he 
glided over the floor. Indeed, a person who was supersti- 
tiously inclined would have felt sure that this strange per- 
sonage was a ghost; but when one has been a broker for 
fifteen years one ceases to believe in the return of the in- 
habitants of the celestial world, and Frapillon felt perfectly 
well satisfied that he had to deal with a creature of plain 
flesh and blood, 



THE RED liAXD. 40f) 

As the mysterious personage had now reached the further 
cud of the corridor and was slowly descending the stairs, 
Frapillon felt strongly inclined to take immediate advan- 
tage of this opportunity to explore the sanctuary in which 
the secrets of the family were doubtless concealed. But 
tempting as the opportunity was, it was not unattended 
with danger, for the midnight promenader might return at 
any moment and discover the intruder; so being a prudent 
man, Frapillon decided not to risk it, but contented him- 
self with a rapid survey of the room from the open door- 
way. To his great surprise, he saw nothing extraordinary 
about the apartment; the table he had seen through the 
key-hole, a vacant arm-chair, the end of a long curtain that 
must have concealed a bed — these were the sole contents 
of the room. 

" The secret is the man in white," concluded Frapillon, 
shrewdly. 

Making his way cautiously through the corridor, and 
then down the staircase, he again reached the lower hall 
sphere, to his very great relief, he found everything exactly 
is he had left it, so in all probability the inmate of the 
cottage had merely passed through it on his way to the 
room formerly occupied by Eegina. 

Frapillon instantly decided upon his course. Softly 
jpening the outside door, he slipped out, rushed down the 
steps and ran with all his might toward the place where he 
lad left Pilevert. 

He found that worthy leaning against the wall, blowing 
ais fingers. 

" Great Jupiter, Fm glad to see you back!" he ex- 
claimed. " My nose is nearly frozen, and there isn't a 
particle of feeling in my fingers." 

"I'll give you some work to warm you up, my brave 
fellow. I just discovered a thief up there at the house, and 
is he didn't see me, I think, between us, we shall have no 
difficulty in capturing him." 



410 THE RED BAND. 

" Fm your man. Lead the way!" exclaimed the acro- 
bat, enthusiastically. 

" Be quiet, Pilevert, be quiet! Did you hear no noise in 
the street, while you were on guard here?" 

" Oh, yes, but nothing of any consequence. Some fel- 
lows pounded on the gate, just for fun, as they passed, 
that's all." 

" Come with me, then," replied Prapillon, starting to- 
ward the cottage, " and I'll explain what I want you to do 
for me as we go along. " 

Pilevert followed him obediently, but they hadn't gone 
ten steps before they both turned to look back, for both 
had heard a slight creaking sound behind them, a sound 
strongly resembling a cautious footstep. 

Prapillon, satisfied that no one could open the gate lead- 
ing into the street, thought at first that he must be mis- 
taken, but soon he distinctly heard footsteps on the frozen 
ground. 

" Somebody's coming!" whispered the acrobat. 

" Impossible!" faltered his astonished and now thorough- 
ly frightened companion. 

" I'm sure of it. Hark! they have stopped; they must 
have seen us. " 

What Pilevert said was perfectly true, and Prapillon 
could no longer blind himself to the fact that some one 
was indeed in the garden. 

It certainly could not be the mysterious personage he 
had left in the cottage, but who else could have entered the 
garden, and in what way had he succeeded in doing it, for 
the existence of the secret spring could be known only to 
the inmates of the cottage and their particular friends. 

"What if that fool of a Molinchard has allowed the 
women to escape?" thought Frapillon. 

" Let us go and see who it is!" said the acrobat. " You 
go first, and wring the neck of the very first person you 
meet." 



THE ItED BAND. 411 

Master Antoine was in an exceedingly valiant mood that 
evening — the magnificent promises made to him having 
excited him to such a degree that he could realize the ex- 
istence of no serious obstacles, so he dashed down the walk, 
swinging his arms like an athlete who is preparing himself 
for a desperate struggle. 

The evercautious Frapillon, pistol in hand, brought up 
the rear. 

The path was very dark on account of the thick roof 
formed by the branches, but where it began about three or 
four yards from the little gate, there was a vacant space 
where every object was distinctly visible. 

" They must have concealed themselves behind that 
clump of shrubbery, for I see no one," remarked Pilevert, 
but he nevertheless hastened on a little in advance of his 
patron. 

Just as he reached the last linden, a man suddenly ap- 
peared before him, and Pilevert, feeling it his duty to 
faithfully carry out the instructions he had received, 
sprung forward and clutched the new-comer savagely by 
the throat. 

" Wretch!" cried the stranger, swaying to and fro like 
a reed in the powerful grasp of the former acrobat. Fra- 
pillon hastened up to encourage his subordinate with voice 
and gesture, and the affair seemed likely to terminate in a 
murder, when the sudden appearance of another party 
upon the scene of action changed the aspect of affairs com- 
pletely. 

A woman had suddenly rushed out from behind the 
clump of shrubbery, and darted toward the combatants, 
where, by clinging to Pilevert' s clothing, she succeeded in 
raising herself until her face was close to his. 

The acrobat uttered a cry, and instantly released his 
opponent, who drew back and assumed an attitude of defense. 

" Begina!" repeated Antoine. " Eegina! can it be this 
is you?" 



412 THE RED BAUD. 

The formidable antagonist of a moment before was now 
trembling like a child. It is difficult to say whether the 
feeling he experienced was one of joy or fear, for first he 
sprung forward with open arms as if to press the girl to his 
heart, and the next moment he recoiled, as if confronted 
by a specter. 

It was very different with Frapillon. 

The name uttered by his satellite had thrown him into a 
furious passion. He could not understand this return of 
one he had supposed safely out of his way forever, but he 
wanted to end the affair before Pilevert had time for re- 
flection. 

" Kill him! kill him! my brave fellow!" he cried, " kill 
him while I attend to this hussy!" 

As he spoke, he rushed toward Eegina, pistol in hand. 

" No, no, patron. I won't have my little deaf-and- 
dumb girl harmed!" cried Pilevert, giving him a blow on 
the arm that dashed the revolver to the ground. 

And before Frapillon recovered from his astonishment, 
the stranger had picked up the weapon and leveled it at 
the broker's breast, and the acrobat made no attempt to 
prevent this aggressive movement on the part of his late 
adversary. 
, He seemed to have become petrified. 

It was evident that Eegina had conquered him, but to 
complete her victory, she threw her arms around his neck, 
and kissed him affectionately, and Antoine lifted her high 
in the air, heaving a sigh of mingled joy and relief the 
while. ■ 

He looked very much like a bear playing with a bird. 

" There's not the slightest doubt of it!" he exclaimed, 
as he replaced her on the ground. " It is my little Eegina! 
Nothing is wanting but Bradamante now!" 

" Fool!" hissed Frapillon, now completely beside him- 
self, " if you want me to buy your horse back for you, help 
me kill these people. " 



THE RED BAND. 413 

"Regina? Never!" replied the acrobat, resolutely. 
" You cau do what you like with the other one." 

But the other one did not seem inclined to allow Frapil- 
lon to carry out his intentions, for he took a step forward, 
with his pistol still leveled at Frapillon. 

" The first person that moves I'll blow his brains out!" 
he said, in a tone that fully convinced one of his sincerity. 

No sooner had she been released by her old employer 
than the young girl placed herself beside the stranger, as if 
to give the others to understand that she espoused his 
cause; then, by an imperious gesture, she ordered the acro- 
bat to join them, and he obeyed with wonderful docility. 

Frapillon ground his teeth with rage. 

"I know you!" said the stranger, turning to Pilevert, 
" and you know me — " 

" Great Jupiter! I hope lightning may strike me if — " 

" You met me in the forest of Saint Germain, the day 
those scoundrels foully murdered my cousin in a duel. " 

"Impossible! No — but wait — Yes, it was you — the 
officer of Mobiles. " 

" Yes — rescued by this young girl who loves you, and 
who bids you assist me in avenging her and friends of mine 
persecuted by the same scoundrels. " 

" Where are they! Let me get hold of them. I'll tear 
them limb from limb!" 

" I think we have one of the culprits here," said Roger 
de Saint Senier, who had not once removed his eyes from 
Frapillon' s face. 

" That is false!" 

But even as this impudent denial escaped the terrified 
broker Pilevert growled: 

" What! my patron? Impossible! He's a kind-hearted 
man that is going to buy a wagon for me, and — " 

" What are you doing here?" interrupted Roger. 

Frapillon's only reply was a growl of rage, but the art- 
less Antoine at once volunteered an explanation. 

6-Sd half. 



414 THE RED BANC 

" Fll tell you, lieutenant — for you certainly are the lieu- 
tenant, though I didn't recognize you at first on account 
of your blouse. This gentleman is in his own house, you 
see — " 

" In his own house? He lies. The cottage belongs to 
relatives of mine." 

" Why, you don't tell me so!" exclaimed Pilevert, appar- 
ently more and more inclined to abandon Frapillon's cause. 

" And any person who breaks into another person's house 
at night is very likely to go to the galleys," continued 
Eoger, coldly. 

" Great Jupiter! I've no desire to go there, I haven't!" 

" Then why did you accompany this man here? Tell me 
frankly, if you don't want me to have you arrested." 

" Because he told me a pack of lies — told me he kept his 
money here — that he was afraid of thieves — that he had 
even found one in the house, and because he is one of the 
owners of the newspaper to which I am indebted for a 
living." 

" The ' Serpenteau,' I suppose," said Eoger, who was 
beginning to understand the situation. 

" Yes, that is what they call it." 

" I know all I want to know now," said the lieutenant. 
" And now listen to me," he added, stepping so close to 
Frapillon 'that he could touch him with his revolver. 

" I am listening, but I shall not answer you." 

"I came here about an hour ago," continued Eoger, 
" and I little expected to find, on my return, the instigator 
of the crime that was committed while this young lady and 
myself were prisoners in the hands of the Prussians. " 

" A crime!" repeated Pilevert, " a crime, did you say?" 

" This cottage was occupied by two ladies, who have 
mysteriously disappeared. Where are they?" said the lieu- 
tenant. 

"I didn't know that I was responsible for them," re- 
plied Frapillon, insolently. 



THE BED UANJ). 4l£ 

" To-morrow morning the authorities will be notified*" 
continued the officer, " and I feel very sure that they will 
find a way to make you speak. " 

" You propose to arrest me, then? You do not dare." 

" If you will tell me what has become of my relatives I 
may let you go free, though I will not pledge myself to do 
so; if you refuse I shall ask this man you have so grossly 
deceived tc assist me in arresting you, and between us I 
think we shall succeed in taking you to the nearest com- 
missioner of police. " 

The gate was only three steps from him, and Frapillon 
would have to make but a single bound to reach it, open 
it, and disappear, but the pistol deterred him. 

"Arrest me if you dare," he cried, seizing the pistol 
leveled at his forehead. 

Eoger resisted his efforts to secure the weapon, and in 
the scuffle that ensued the pistol was discharged, and the 
diplomatist of the Eue Cadet fell lifeless to the ground. 



CHAPTER XXL 

A pew days after the tragedy in the garden of the cot- 
tage three persons were sitting with Valnoir in his little 
smoking-room on the Eue de Navarin. 

Eose de Oharmiere was lolling nonchalantly on a Turkish 
divan, enjoying: a cigarette, while Taupier, half buried in a 
low arm-chair, was holding an open newspaper from which 
he seemed about to read an extract. 

Bourignard was standing by the door, in a respectful at- 
titude which was by no means destitute of dignity, however. 

As for the proprietor of the establishment, he was walk- 
ing to and fro, with his hands behind him — apparently ab- 
sorbed in contemplating the fantastic design of the Turkey 
carpet, for he did not raise his eyes from the floor; and, 
indeed, from the expression of gravity on every face, it was 



41(3 THE RED BAND. 

evident that some important subject was under considera- 1 
tion. 

"Let us hear your chef-d'oeuvre,' * remarked Valnoir, 
without pausing in his promenade. 

" Here it is!" said Taupier, in the pompous tone he al- 
ways used in reading his own productions. 

' ' The tragical event that recently occurred in the Eue de 
Laval is still shrouded in mystery. Our readers doubtless 
recollect that one night last week two policemen found, on 
the sidewalk, the dead body of a man whose forehead bore 
a wound made by a pistol that had evidently been fired at 
very close range. 

" At first it was considered a case of suicide, and this 
supposition was strengthened by the fact that a pistol was 
found lying beside the body; but now everything seems to 
indicate that the physician who conducted the examination 
was mistaken. 

' ' The body has since been identified as that of a highly 
respectable citizen, a captain in the 365 th battalion, and one 
of the strongest champions of democratic principles in our 
unfortunate city. 

" J. B. Frapillon had been a resident of the Rue Cadet 
for many long years, and was much loved and respected by 
his numerous clients, who will never forget his urbanity 
and wonderful kindness of heart. 

" He was a pure and upright man." 

r " Hum! that's a little too steep, it seems to me," mut- 
tered Valnoir. 

" Nonsense! if there were no fools in the world to believe 
what is said in funeral sermons, none would ever be 
preached," retorted Taupier, impatiently. 

And he resumed his reading: 

"J. B. Frapillon was bound to us not only by ties of the 
closest friendship, but also by a congeniality of sentiment 
and political opinions. 



THE BED BAND. 417 

" The business manager of our journal, he always per- 
formed his important duties with a zeal and integrity that 
was above all praise, and the services he rendered to the 
people's cause can hardly be overestimated. 

" The editorial staff of the ' Serpenteau ' can not refrain 
from paying this well-deserved tribute to his memory — but 
they have an even more sacred duty to perform — that of 
avenging him!" 

" You will get yourself into trouble with the authorities. 
They never like to have the public meddle with their 
affairs," remarked the editor-in-chief. 

" That makes no difference to me," retorted the irrever- 
ent hunchback. ' ' This article will sell at least ten thou- 
sand extra papers for us to-morrow, and yet you com- 
plain. " 

" That is the chief consideration after all/' remarked 
Mile, de Charmiere, who was of an eminently practical 
turn of mind. 

" Paragraph 3d," cried Taupier, in the very same tone 
Lemaitre employs in the role of " Don Caesar de Bazan:" 

" Why should J. B. Frapillon, a paragon of uprightness, 
a man who was not only universally respected, but who was 
devoted to the noblest of causes, and the possessor oi a 
modest competence, commit suicide? 

" Such an idea is simply absurd. 

" No, this model citizen, this earnest and indefatigable 
laborer for the public welfare would never have thus for- 
saken his post of duty and the interests of the democracy; 
and if one wishes to discover the real cause of his death, 
one must call to mind the old maxim, 'is fecit cui pro- 
test.' " 

" So you are spouting Latin to them now!" exclaimed 
Valnoir. " You really must have gone mad." 

" You don't know anything about journalism, my dear 



418 THE RED BAND. 

fellow. Our readers don't understand the language, but 
the use of it flatters them." 

" Our friend was detested by the reactionists," he con- 
tinued, "consequently there is very little doubt that he 
Was assassinated by the reactionists. 

"J. B. Frapillon was found dead in front of a house 
which has been looked upon for some time as the rendez- 
vous of aristocrats and traitors. 

" Almost from the beginning of the siege the cottage on 
the Rue de Laval has been regarded with suspicion by all 
patriotic citizens. Lights of different colors have been 
seen burning there at night, and the well-known weakness 
of the government in such matters is alone to blame for 
the failure to investigate this affair. 

" It is true that this rendezvous of spies has been visited 
since the crime, and no one found there, but the friends of 
an effete monarchy and of the Prussians had had time to 
make their escape. 

" We ourselves are perfectly well satisfied that it was in 
endeavoring to gain an entrance into this den of conspira- 
tors for the purpose of unveiling their machinations that 
J. B. Frapillon met his death. 

" It is for this reason we ask that an investigation shall 
be made, and a careful and diligent investigation by magis- 
trates who are both tried and trusted democrats. 

" If the government persists in treating reactionists with 
a consideration that is not shown to patriotic citizens — if 
this demand for an investigation is refused — ah, well, we 
ourselves will undertake it." 

After this sensational conclusion Taupier assumed the stud- 
ied attitude of an actor who is awaiting a burst of applause. 
But the applause was not forthcoming. 
" Well, what do you think of it?" he asked at last. " It 
strikes me that it's not bad, " he added, with ill^-concealed 
complacency. 



THE RED BAND. 419 

"It is simply idiotic," replied Valnoir, shrugging his 
shoulders. 

" Then why didn't you write it yourself?" 

" Because I didn't think any further notice of the matter 
advisable. " 

" May I ask your motive in writing such an article?" 
inquired Eose. 

" Why, to protect ourselves against any attack from that 
Saint Senier crowd," cried Taupier. " You surely don't 
suppose I am troubling myself about that old cur, Frapil- 
lon. Besides, the surest means of discovering the money 
will be to insist upon an investigation. If he really de- 
posited it in the bank, as he assured us at our last meet- 
ing, we shall have a hard time getting hold of it." 

" Language was given us to conceal our thoughts," said 
the fair Rose, sententiously, " and I should advise you to 
try Doctor Molinchard, after all." 

We might make an attempt in that direction, but in the 
meantime I should like to get hold of Pilevert, for I feel 
almost sure that we could find out all we want to know 
through him. " 

" His disappearance is certainly very astonishing," mut- 
tered Valnoir. 

"You told me, I think," began the practical Rose, 
"that Pilevert brought Frapillon to the place where the 
' Moon with the Teeth ' was in secret session, and in that 
case Bourignard, who was guarding the door at the time, 
may be able to give us some valuable information." 

" It was for that very reason I asked him to come up," 
remarked the editor-in-chief of the " Serpenteau. " 
" Come, Master Bourignard, let us hear your testimony." 

The porter, who had listened to the foregoing conversa- 
tion with much apparent interest, now took three steps 
forward, and bowed politely, but without losing any of his 
dignity. 

"I am ready, citizens, to give you all the information in 



420 THE BED BAND. 

my power," he said, majestically. " I was sitting quietly 
reading the works of the great Saint Just when I suddenly 
heard a voice — " 

This testimony, however, was interrupted at the very 
outset by the shrill voice of Agricola, whose fox-like face 
suddenly appeared at his father's elbow. 

" Any admission?" he piped. 
J" " My good Bourignard, you are certainly bringing up 
your offspring very badly," said Valnoir, who was greatly 
annoyed at this intrusion. 

The porter's gold spectacles trembled on his imposing 
nose, but he could find nothing to say in reply, so great 
was the humiliation he felt at receiving this reproach, 
and so intense the anger excited by this new escapade on 
the part of his hopeful son. 

" Come in, you young rascal," growled Taupier. 

The invitation did not have to be repeated, however. 
Agricola slipped, like a serpent, through the half-open 
door, and then pausing, took a deliberate survey of the 
company, allowing his eyes to linger contentedly on the 
charms of the fair Rose, but not honoring his venerable 
parent with even the most cursory glance. 

" What do you want?" inquired Valnoir. 

' ' I want to tell you a story. " 

" How dare you, you young scoundrel!" cried the furious 
hunchback. 

" I'm not talking to you." 

Taupier sprung up to punish the lad for his insolence, 
but the gamin immediately prepared for fight, spreading 
his feet wide apart, bending his knees and clinching his 
fists, for young Bourignard had given much attention to the 
manly art of self-defense, and considered himself a match 
for almost anybody. 

The scene was becoming ridiculous, and Mile, de Ohar- 
miere thought it quite time to put an end to it. 

" Let the boy explain, Taupier," she said in the tone of 



THE RED BAND. 421 

authority she knew so well how to assume when necessary. 
" He has some important information for us, perhaps. " 

" Upon what subject? On the playing of balls and 
tops?" sneered the hunchback, shrugging his shoulders. 

" Wouldn't you like to know?" drawled the urchin. 

" Now, my little friend," said Eose, gently, for her 
feminine instinct warned her that some valuable informa- 
tion was to be derived from this most unpromising source, 
" what have you to tell us?" 

" Something that interests you much more than it does 
me." 

" Tell us at once, then, for these gentlemen and myself 
are very busy." 

" I'll tell you, but I want to be paid for it." 

" Well, Bourignard, I must say that your heir-presump- 
tive has plenty of assurance!" exclaimed Valnoir. 

"Indeed," said Kose, smiling, "is it so very impor- 
tant?" 

" What would you give to know just what happened on 
the Eue de Laval the other night?" demanded the gamin 
with unblushing effrontery. 

This question wrought an instantaneous change in the 
expression of every face. 

Valnoir turned pale, Taupier made a horrible grimace, 
and Bourignard lifted his hands to heaven as if to express 
the admiration his son's shrewdness awakened in his breast. 

Mile, de Charmiere was the only person present who re- 
tained sufficient presence of mind to continue the examina- 
tion. 

" Were you there, my child?" she inquired, with an air 
of almost maternal interest. 

" I'll tell you when I know what you're willing to give 
me," replied Agricola, unflinchingly. 

"A louis. That surely is enough to spend on cakes," 
insinuated Rose, drawing an elegant porte-monnaie from 
her pocket. 



422 THE RED BAND. 

" I don't want any cakes. They've been making them 
of horse fat ever since the siege began. " 

" Some candy, then." 

" Oh, I don't want any candy. I owe some fellows a lot 
of money on some games of billiards, and I want enough 
more to go on a little spree with. If you'll say three louis 
I'm your man. " 

" Here they are, my little friend," replied the lady, who 
never spared money in an emergency. 

.Agricola snatched the coins from Mile, de Charmiere's 
daintily gloved fingers, slipped them into his shoe, and then 
assumed an oratorical attitude. 

" Do you want to know who put an end to Father Fra- 
pillon?" he began. 

" You have just been paid to tell us," replied Taupier, 
brusquely. 

" That's so. Well, it was Pilevert. " 

"Antoine! Impossible!" exclaimed Mile, de Ohar- 
miere, appalled at the prospect of being called as a witness 
before the court that would try her unfortunate brother. 

" I think it is very probable," muttered the hunchback. 

" Now, I'll tell you the whole story, if you want to hear 
it," continued the young rascal, with -a satanic leer. 
" You see, I was running down the Rue Montorgueil last 
Saturday afternoon about six o'clock, and who should I 
meet but Father Frapillon and old Pilevert walking along 
arm in arm as sweet as you please. I thought it very 
strange that an aristocrat like Frapillon should show him- 
self in such company, so I followed them just to see what 
they were up to — " 

" Not a bad idea, that," growled Taupier. 

" Well, I saw them go into Baratte's, and I said to my- 
self if old spectacles intends to treat Pilevert, it certainly 
isn't just for the pleasure of seeing him drink. " 

" Precocious child!" murmured Bourignard. 

" Oh, hush up, pap! Well, they stayed and stayed, and 



THE RED BAND. 423 

if I hadn't met Alfred Oramouzot who played four or five 
games of cards with me, I should have given up the thing 
as a bad job. At last they came out and went to the 
meeting on the Boulevard de Clichy, and afterward to your 
' Full Moon/ which they left in a hurry, I can tell you," 
he added, with a chuckle. 

" And I'll bet that you were the young imp that imitated 
the voice of a policeman on the stairs. " 

"Well, I shouldn't wonder if I was!" responded the 
urchin, insolently. " I'm not a bad hand at imitating, 
am I, papr" 

" Agricola, this facetiousness is becoming intolerable/' 
said the concierge, who had not yet entirely recovered from 
his fright. 

"Attention, now. We're coming to the fifth act. On 
leaving the cellar, I saw that they started in the direction 
of the Eue de Laval, and I knew just as well as I wanted 
to, that they were making for the cottage, and so they 
were. They crept cautiously along in the shadow of the 
houses, but when they reached the little gate in the wall, 
in they went. As they shut the gate behind them, I 
couldn't get in, but had to stay outside, where I amused 
myself by whistling and by pounding on the gate. After 
awhile I saw a man and woman coming down the street, so 
I ran and hid behind a tree-box. They, too, stopped in 
frost of the gate, and opened it without any trouble. 
After they went inside I ran up to the gate again- to 
listen, and in a few minutes I heard voices. There seemed 
to be a pretty lively quarrel going on, and in a minute or 
two I heard the report of a pistol." 

" But how do you know that it was Pilevert who fired it, 
idiot?" cried the hunchback. 

" Wait a minute, will you? Don't be in such a hurry. 
Of course, after that I ran back to my tree-box and waited 
to see what would happen next; and in about twenty minutes 
the gate opened very softly, and Pilevert came out with 



424 THE RED BAND. 

old Frapillon on his back, and laid him on the sidewalk. 
I don't know whether it was because he was scared or 
because he felt so bad about it, but his legs shook under 
him, and I really thought he was going to topple over. 
After he laid the body down, he noticed that he had for- 
gotten the pistol, so he went back and got it, and placed it 
beside old spectacles." 

"And what happened after that?" faltered Mile, de 
Charmiere. 

The gate opened again a few minutes afterward, and 
this time four persons came out and started off in the 
direction of the Avenue Trudaine." 

" Two of them were women, probably/' said Valnoir. 

" No, only one of them, the same one that had entered 
the garden with the man some time before. Then there 
was Pilevert, and another man, a tall fellow who looked 
funny enough, in a long cloak with a hood to it. " 

" Why didn't you follow them, idiot?" demanded Tau- 
pier, savagely. 

" I'll bet you wouldn't have done it, you old blower," 
responded Agricola, insolently. ' ' If I'd been fool enough 
to follow them they would have seized me and left me dead 
upon the pavement like old spectacles. " 

"And this is all you know about the affair?" inquired 
Valnoir, after a moment's silence. 

" Yes." 

And Agricola executed a pirouette by way of conclusion, 
apparently well satisfied that he had earned his money. 

" But why didn't you come and tell us sooner?" 

' ' Why, because as I was making for home, by way of 
the Rue Breda, the patrol picked me up, and when they 
released me I thought I'd pay a visit to Bondy and make a 
raid on a potato patch." 

" I think I heard some one at the door; I'll go and see," 
remarked Bourignard, who seemed considerably upset by 
his son's revelations, and Agricola followed him. 



THE RED BAND. 425 

After the departure of Bourignard and his hopef ul son, 
there was a long silence. Taupier was the first to break it. 

" Well, we seem to be well rid of these people, that's one 
comfort," he remarked, carelessly. 

"How so?" inquired Valnoir, who seemed much less 
confident. 

" Why, they seem to have a nice little murder upon 
their consciences, and if they attempt to trouble us, I think 
we sha'n't have much trouble in silencing them." 

" I'm not so sure of that," replied the editor-in-chief. 
" It is very evident that Frapillon was killed by Pilevert, 
but bow and why, I fail to understand." 

" Besides," iaterrupted Mile, de Oharmiere, " Aritoine 
— I — I mean that man never seemed to me at all blood- 
thirsty, and I really don't believe that he would have dared 
to kill anybody. " 

" But you can hardly doubt it--now, it seems to me. 
You heard what that young rascal said." 

" Yes, but he could not see what occurred on the other 
side of the wall, and the shot may have been fired by one 
of the men who were with Pilevert when he left the gar- 
den. " 

" It makes little or no difference whether the murder 
was committed by Pilevert or some other member of the 
party. The fact places them all in our power. ' ' 

" It seems to me that we are wasting a great deal of 
time, gentlemen," said Eose. " What we want to know is 
what Prapillon has done with the money. Don't forget 
that. What kind of a man is this Molinchard?" 

" Oh, a two-penny sort of a doctor that Prapillon has 
been making a cat's-paw of, and that would sell his soul 
for a little money." 

" Isn't he the proprietor of a private hospital? It seems 
to me I saw a notice to that effect in one of our papers," 
remarked Valnoir. 

Yes. Prapillon furnished the capital, and had a share 



cc 



426 THE RED BAND. 

in the profits. The establishment is in Montmartre; and 
Molinchard has the assurance to style it the Villa on the 
Heights." 

" And now I think of it, I have an excellent excuse for 
visiting the establishment !" exclaimed Taupier. 

" What?" 

" Podensac was wounded in the arm the other day by a 
bullet, and he went to Molinchard to get cured. " 

" Have you any objection to taking me with you when 
you go?" inquired Rose, hastily. 

" Not the slightest, though I don't see the use of it." 

" A woman sees many things that escape a man's notice, 
and I feel sure that I should get at the truth after I had 
talked with those people awhile. Our campaign against 
the Saint Seniers has not prospered very well thus far, but 
that is because it has been badly conducted. I am going 
to assume command of it now, and see if we don't come 
off victorious this time. " 

"So be it," said the hunchback, picking up his hat. 
" I think I'll step out and see how the paper is selling to- 
day at the news-stands. " And he departed after imprint- 
ing a kiss on the hand of the fair Rose, who submitted 
without any show of repugnance, for she had a plan, and 
hoped to secure the hunchback's assistance in executing it. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

Doctor Molinchard was seated at his desk, looking 
over his accounts in a damp and gloomy basement room 
which he dignified with the name of superintendent's office. 
His sallow countenance had assumed an expression of 
complacency which it did not wear in J. B. Frapillon's 
time, for the sudden and violent death of that gentleman 
had wrought a great change in the physician's existence. 
For the first time in his life, Molinchard found himself 



THE BED BAND. 427 

free to act as he pleased, and absolute master of an estab- 
lishment in which he had. heretofore occupied only the 
humble position of steward. 

No one knew for a certainty that Frapillon owned an 
interest in the establishment, for the diplomatist of the 
Rue de Cadet rarely took any one into his confidence in 
business matters; besides, as Frapillon had no relatives in 
the city, and as it would be necessary to wait until the siege 
was ended before any relatives he might have in the coun- 
try could be apprised of his untimely demise, the doctor 
was sure to have no trouble with any possible heirs for a 
long time, and this prospect was eminently pleasing to him. 

During the night that followed the ladies' departure 
from the cottage, Frapillon had explained a part of his plan 
to his accomplice, and had alluded vaguely to an enormous 
inheritance that might be secured by constituting them- 
selves the guardians of an old and almost dying woman 
and a young girl whose mind was affected. 

Molinchard had asked for no further particulars at the 
time. He never questioned the orders given him by his 
superior officer, but executed them with scrupulous fidelity, 
and it was in compliance with these orders that Mme. de 
Muire had been enticed from her chamber on some specious 
pretext, and then imprisoned in an isolated room in the 
upper story of the adjoining building. 

This maneuver had left Mile, de Saint Senier exposed to 
the machinations of her persecutor, who had confined him- 
self to robbing her of her keys, however, and the narcotic 
she had unwittingly taken had had no pernicious effect 
upon her health. 

Such was the condition of affairs when Molinchard 
learned that the dead body of Frapillon had been picked up 
in the street by a policeman. He had intended to ask that 
gentleman for full instructions that very day, and the news 
of his death threw him into a state of the deepest perplexity. 

We must, however, do the doctor the justice to say that 



4£8 THE BED BAND. 

his first impulse had been to set the two unfortunate women 
at liberty immediately, but sharing the opinion of M. de 
Talleyrand, who declared that one should always distrust 
one's first impulse, because it is usually a good one, he be- 
gan to consider the probable consequences of such a step, 
and finally concluded that the very first use they would 
make of their freedom would be to denounce him. 

Little as he knew about Frapillon's plans, he would cer- 
tainly be regarded as an accomplice, and the mere thought 
of being called to an account by the authorities was ap- 
palling to him. 

The first and second days of the ladies' imprisonment 
were therefore days of dire perplexity for their jailer and 
of unspeakable anguish for them. 

The Countess de Muire had had another terrible nervous 
attack, and did not leave her bed, where she lay weeping 
and calling for her niece. 

The doctor had intrusted her to the care of the virago 
that served as nurse in the establishment, and confined his 
medical attentions to prescribing soothing draughts. 

Eenee de Saint Senier had received several visits from 
him, and during these interviews the astute Molinchardhad 
manifested a prudent reserve, saying little, scarcely answer- 
ing the questions put to him, but listening with carefully 
concealed eagerness to the young girl's complaints and re- 
proaches. 

It was evident to Mile, de Saint Senier that this highly 
discreet physician considered, or pretended to consider her 
insane, and this discovery plunged her into the depths of 
despair. 

As for the doctor, he had sense enough to feel sure that 
he had two ladies of rank in his power — the victims of a 
conspiracy that he only partially understood. 

And once convinced of this fact, he said to himself that 
he might still get safely out of the scrape by siding with 
the victims. 



THE RED BAND. 429 

He had only to pretend that he had been deceived in re- 
gard to their real condition and release them to win the 
gratitude of these persons of distinction — an advantage the 
doctor did not disdain by any means. It is even probable 
that he would have come to this sage conclusion if the 
strangest thing imaginable had not happened. 

Molinchard had fallen in love with Benee de Saint Senier. 

He had struggled hard against the infatuation, had vain- 
ly reminded himself of his long-cherished convictions as a 
liberal and a philosopher, but had succumbed in spite of 
himself to the aristocratic charms of Mile, de Saint Senier. 

The conquests of his youth had not extended beyond the 
Jiaiitues of the beer-shops in the Latin Quarter and the 
women servants in the hospitals, but this made him all the 
more susceptible to the charms of a young girl who be- 
longed to a sphere from which quacks of his stamp are rig- 
orously excluded. 

The unfortunate quadragenarian could deceive himself 
no longer. He loved, but dared not tell his love. He knew 
that he was very unattractive in person, and that his un- 
polished manners would not be likely to win him the favor 
of a beautiful young lady of noble birth, but he could 
not make up his mind to part with his prisoner, and he 
was beginning to entertain strong hopes of a new revolution 
that would afford him an opportunity to appear in the light 
of a, preserver and benefactor. 

The recollection of sundry proconsuls of 1793, who al- 
lowed their victims to choose between their love and the 
guillotine, haunted Molinchard and gave him some hope. 

Still, nearly three weeks had elapsed since Frapillon's 
death had- made him master of the Villa on the Heights, 
and he had made no progress whatever. 

The siege was fast drawing to a close, for the stock of 
provisions was now known to be nearly exhausted, and the 
doctor could see little prospect of a fortunate termination 
of his love-affair. 



430 THE BED BAND. 

Consequently, he had become rather despondent, and 
though seated at his desk, ostensibly engaged in looking 
over his accounts, he was really paying very little attention 
to the figures before him, when the big ex-cantiniere who 
acted as nurse for the female patients burst into the room 
like a whirlwind. 

" There's some people asking for you, m'sieur," she 
said, breathlessly. 

" Very well, Mother Ponisse, very well," replied Molin- 
chard; " but you need not speak so loud." 

"I can't help it. It's my natural voice," replied the 
virago, raising the organ to a still higher key. 

" "What do they want?" inquired the doctor, who seemed 
considerably annoyed at the interruption. 

" They didn't tell me; but you'd better see them, for 
they seem to be very stylish people. There's one gentle- 
man with a fur-trimmed overcoat, who looks like an En- 
glish nobleman, and a princess in furs and velvets — " 

" What, a lady?" inquired Molinchard, who was begin- 
ning to feel curious, and even a little anxious. 

" Certainly there is a lady, and a dwarf, into the bargain; 
and they didn't come afoot, but in a fine carriage that is 
waiting for them at the foot of the hill." 

" Very well; I will see them. Show them in at once. " 

The old woman started off growling, but she was spared 
any further trouble, for before she reached the door it 
opened, and the visitors appeared upon the threshold. 

Taupier came first, closely followed by Valnoir, who had 
Mile, de Oharmiere on his arm. 

" Good -morning," cried the hunchback. " I think 
your business must be prospering by the length of time 
you keep us waiting. Allow me, most learned iEsculapius, 
to present some friends of mine." 

Molinchard, who had risen to his feet, bowed so awk- 
wardly that Eose could hardly restrain her desire to laugh. 

" You see in this gorgeous dressing-gown," continued the 



THE RED BAKD. 431 

pitiless Taupier, " a prince of science who has retired to the 
heights of Montmartre to consecrate his skill to the allevi- 
ation of human ills. His talents are well known, and his 
name — " 

" You must excuse our friend's levity, monsieur," in- 
terrupted Valnoir, pitying the doctor's embarrassment. " I 
will introduce myself. I am the editor-in-chief of the ' Ser- 
pen teau/ and you may have heard of me through — " 

" Through poor Frapillon, certainly," stammered Mo- 
linchard; " and I am delighted — " 

"And this is Mademoiselle de Charmiere," cried the 
hunchback. " Confess, doctor, that you never saw a pret- 
tier woman. She is Valnoir's iEgeria, the angel of the 
' Serpen teau ' — " ^ 

Rose checked him by beginning to speak in her turn. 

" I was anxious to see the magnificent view you must 
have from your house," she said, with one of her most be- 
witching smiles; " and I hope, sir, that you will not be 
offended with me for accompanying Monsieur de Valnoir. " 

" Quite the contrary, madame — I mean mademoiselle," 
replied the doctor, who was becoming more and more awk- 
ward in his manner. 

" We heard that Podensac was here," remarked Tau- 
pier, " so we thought we would pay him a friendly call, as 
he might need cheering up a little. " 

" Of course, of course. Is he in his room?" asked Mo- 
linchard, turning to the ex-cantiniere, who was still stand- 
ing near the door with arms akimbo. 

"No; he's smoking his pipe in the main court-yard," 
replied the old woman. 

" Then I will escort you there, gentlemen," said the 
physician; " and madame, too, if she is not afraid of a lit- 
tle tobacco-smoke. " 

" Oh, not the least bit in the world, particularly in the 
open air," replied Rose. 

" Then lead the way," interrupted Taupier, 



432 THE BED BAND. 

Molinchard needed no urging, but immediately conduct- 
ed his guests down a long corridor at the further end of 
which was an iron grating that served as an entrance to the 
place the servant had styled the main court-yard. 

Seated on a bench in one corner of this court-yard, was 
Podensac, tranquilly smoking a pipe, with his arm in a 
sling. 

He rose on perceiving Taupier, and advanced to meet 
the brilliant company that had so unexpectedly honored 
him with a visit. 

He had been on tolerably friendly terms with Valnoir 
prior to the duel at Saint Germain, and he knew Mile, de 
Charmiere by sight, so the meeting was cordial on both 
sides. Rose apologized very gracefully for the liberty she 
had taken, and this time her apology was received with the 
utmost politeness, for Podensac prided himself on his gal- 
lantry; besides, he was not sorry to have an opportunity to 
pose as a wounded warrior before a pretty woman. 

" Well, old fellow, those rascally Prussians were rather 
too much for you last time," said the hunchback. 

" Oh, my wound is a mere scratch, and I hope to get 
back to the outposts in a few days." 

" And in the meantime you come to Molinchard's to re- 
cuperate. As soon as we learned that you were here, we 
resolved to come and pay you a visit." 

" I am very grateful to you, and especially to madame, 
for having taken the trouble to climb up here. It is a real 
pilgrimage." 

" I did not mind it in the least, monsieur," said Eose, 
graciously. " Indeed, I would go much further to see a 
brave officer and a friend of Monsieur de Valnoir." 

Molinchard thought he could leave the party to continue 
their complimentary but very commonplace conversation 
with perfect safety, so he took advantage of this opportu- 
nity to excuse himself, for he did not like to be long absent 
from the house where he had a host of things to attend to, 



THE RED BAND. 433 

" Do you know, old fellow, that it is a positive age since 
I saw you, " remarked Taupier. 

"Yes; it is nearly three months since our meeting in 
Mouchabeuf's wine-shop at Rueil." 

Taupier started slightly, for the recollection was not very 
pleasant to him. 

" And, by the way, I have a droll story to tell you/' con- 
tinued the major. " Would you believe it—" 

He was interrupted by the falling of a stone that dropped 
so near them that it grazed Mile, de Charmiere's dress. 

" You are not hurt, mademoiselle, I trust?" exclaimed 
the major. 

" Look! there seems to be a bit of paper tied around the 
pebble," remarked Taupier. 

" That is certainly very strange!" 

" Let us see what is on the paper," growled the hunch- 
back. 

"But letters that are thrown over walls are generally 
love-letters," objected Eose, with a smiling glance at Po- 
densac, " and I think you gentlemen are really too inquis- 
itive. " 

Oh, I have no correspondence of that nature, I assure 
you. 

Then we can read it, I suppose?" 

Certainly, as I haven't the slightest idea where it came 



a 
a 

from. " 



The hunchback lost no time in removing the paper which 
had been tied around the stone with a coarse thread. 

" The deuce! it's not very legible," he muttered, as he 
unfolded it. " It looks as if it had been written with a nail 
dipped in lamp-black. " 

" ' Whoever you may be,' " he read aloud, as he slowly de- 
ciphered it, " ' take pity on a woman who was enticed into 
this house by the foulest treachery, and who is now forci- 
bly detained here.' 



<£34 THE RED BAND. 

" Whew! this looks serious. 

"'I therefore implore the person who reads these lines to 
take them to a magistrate, and tell him what a gross viola- 
tion of the law is being committed here.' " 

"Let us hear the rest of it!" exclaimed Mile, de Char- 
miere, who seemed to be greatly interested. 

" That is all," replied the hunchback. 

" Who can the writer be?" 

"A poor girl who seems to have a, perfect mania for 
writing notes of this kind. She has bombarded me several 
times before with her notes, tied around pebbles, that she 
throws from the adjoining yard, in which she takes her exer- 
cise. I showed the notes to the doctor, and he told me the 
poor girl's story. She is the daughter of a cabinet-maker 
or a locksmith, I don't remember which; and she was about 
to be married when the war broke out. Her intended was 
obliged to go when the reserve was called for, and she has 
heard nothing from him since the battle of Sedan. Her 
grief and suspense have impaired her reason to such an 
extent that her father has been obliged to bring her 
here." 

"How touching!" exclaimed Mile, de Charmiere. 
" And the poor thing is here — alone, and deserted by all 
her kith and kin." 

" Her father, who drinks, I believe, is only too glad to 
get rid of her, I judge, from what the doctor says. " 

" And you have felt no curiosity to see her?" 

" No; I understand she becomes very violent in the pres- 
ence of strangers. It is a peculiarity of her disease that 
she fancies herself terribly persecuted by the people here in 
the house — fancies they are trying to separate her from her 
betrothed, and all that." 

" Is she young?" inquired Eose, after a short silence. 

" I believe so, but not at all pretty, Molinchard tells 
me." 



THE RED BAHD. 435 

" That explains why you haven't insisted upon paying 
her a visit, for we all know that you are a great ladies' 
man," sneered Taupier. 

" Not nearly as much as you are yourself, my dear fel- 
low," replied Podensac modestly. " And, by the way, I 
ought to inquire about one of your sweethearts whom you 
must have seen quite recently, I suppose. " 

" I've no idea who you're talking about," responded the 
hunchback, curtly, shrugging his shoulders. 

" You're a sly dog, and — " 

" Gentlemen," interposed Mile, de Oharmiere, who took 
very little interest in Taupier's conquests, " I have no de- 
sire to intrude upon your confidence, so I am going to ask 
Monsieur de Valnoir to take me to the doctor so I can ask 
his permission to visit this poor recluse." 

Had Eose understood Podensac 's allusion she certainly 
would not have thought of leaving them, but she had not 
the slightest suspicion of the truth; and though the woman's 
instinct told her that an interesting mystery was concealed 
under this rather commonplace story of the doctor, she 
saw no possible connection between it and the managers of 
the " Serpenteau. " 

" If you tarry too long we shall rejoin you," cried Poden- 
sac, as Valnoir and his fair companion turned toward the 
house. 

Even the shrewd hunchback had failed to understand the 
covert meaning of the officer's allusion, for his thoughts 
were elsewhere, and when he found himself alone with the 
wounded man he thought only of extorting the much-de- 
sired information from him. 

" Do you know that it's a long time since we met?" he 
remarked, striking the major a friendly blow on the shoul- 
der. 

" That is true; but you look none the worse for it. In 
fact, the siege seems to agree with you. " 

"Yes, yes," answered Taupier complacently. "When 



436 THE RED BAND* 

a paper has a circulation like ours, its owners have reason 
to feel pretty comfortable. " 

" You fellows are certainly to be envied. That duel at 
Saint Germain seems to have brought you good luck." 

" That's a fact/' responded the hunchback, eagerly seiz- 
ing his opportunity. " By the way, that's a matter I want 
to speak to you about, for I've never had any chance to 
talk with you since that eventful day. Tell me what hap- 
pened to you while you were returning to Paris in the acro- 
bat's wagon." 

" Why, you know just as well as I do." 

" Upon my word I do not. Pilevert is such a blockhead 
that I have never succeeded in getting any satisfactory ac- 
count of your adventures out of him." 

"That is very possible," responded the major with a 
laugh, ' ' and there are good reasons why our other compan- 
ion should not be very talkative. Well, we came very near 
being captured by the Uhlans, who followed us almost to 
Rueil, where I parted company with the other occupants of 
the wagon in order to rejoin my men. " 

" But how about the dead man?" asked the hunchback, 
not without a certain hesitation of manner, for in spite of 
his cynicism, the recollection was always an unpleasant one 
to him. 

" The dead man was still living when I left him in his 
cousin's care. " 

" Indeed!" exclaimed Taupier, turning pale. 

" But he was nearly dead. He couldn't have lived long 
enough to reach Paris." 

" Who knows?" muttered the hunchback. 

" This reminds me that I entirely forgot, the other night, 
to inquire about the health — " 

" Of whom?" 

" Oh, you needn't think that I'm deceived by your inno- 
cent airs, or that I've forgotten our meeting in Moucha- 
beuf's establishment. " 



THE RED BAND. 437 

" In Mouchabeuf s establishment? Well, what of it?" 

Taupier 's voice trembled a little; he was afraid to under- 
stand. 

" Yes; and the little deaf-and-dumb girl. Get out, you 
rascal ! She certainly is pretty enough for you to feel glad 
to see her again!" 

"See her again!" said the hunchback, springing from 
the bench. 

" Don't feign ignorance. You know very well that she 
escaped from those Prussians that carried her away, and you 
have had plenty of time to see her again since her return to 
Paris." 

Taupier gazed at the speaker in mingled astonishment 
and dismay. 

" And between you and me, you owe me a nice breakfast, 
which you must pay after the siege, for I contributed not a 
little to the return of your Dulcinia." 

" But how did you happen to see her, and where, and 
when?" 

*' So you persist until the last. Well, then, I was at 
Bezons when she arrived there in company with a messenger 
from the Army of the Loire, and an army officer of your 
acquaintance." 

" Who?" 

" Why, Saint Senier's cousin — the fellow who served as 
a second at the duel. But now I think of it, perhaps he 
has supplanted you, and that is the reason you haven't seen 
the girl since her return. " 

And Podensac burst into a loud laugh that made Taupier 
clinch his fist in impotent rage. 

" What did you do with them? Where are they?" he 
cried, frantically. 

" You ask me too much, old fellow. I sent them to the 
provost-marshal. If you want any further information you 
would do well to apply to the governor." 

" So it was they!" exclaimed Taupier, recollecting the 



438 THE RED BAND. 

report one of the National Guards had rendered at the 
meeting of the "Full Moon," and Agricola's story. 

Just as this exclamation escaped the lips of the unfortu- 
nate hunchback, Valnoir and Mile, de Charmiere reap- 
peared at the grating. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

The morning had been an exceedingly uncomfortable 
and anxious one to Molinchard. 

After the alarm caused by the unexpected advent of Tau- 
pier and his party there followed a period of comparative 
tranquillity on finding that this visit might be accounted for 
by a desire to see his patient, Podensac; and the beginning 
of the conversation in the court-yard was so reassuring that 
he thought he could leave the party with perfect safety. 

He felt, too, that such a course was decidedly wisest under 
the circumstances, as it would indicate that he was the pos- 
sessor of an untroubled conscience. 

This, however, was not the principal motive that im- 
pelled him to return to his office. 

The unfortunate doctor was in a position similar to that 
of the hero in one of Edgar Allan Poe's novels, who had 
concealed the body of his murdered wife under the floor of 
his sleeping apartment, and who dared not leave it on that 
account. ' 

It is true that Molinchard was guarding no lifeless body, 
but his terror was none the less keen, for two prisoners 
were a heavy burden upon his conscience and his love for 
Eenee only increased his torture. 

He hardly dared to set foot out of the house now for fear 
some accident might happen in his absence, though every 
precaution had been taken to prevent it. 

Mme. de Muire, who was a prisoner in the topmost story, 
and unable to leave her bed, certainly could not make her 



THE KED BAND. 439 

escape, as no one except the nurse ever ascended the stair- 
case leading to the lady's room, and she being bound to the 
doctor by ties of gratitude, was not likely to listen to any 
appeals that the patient might make to her. 

Before Mother Ponisse had accepted her present position 
in the doctor's establishment she had been the proprietor of 
a small drinking saloon in Montmartre, where she engaged, 
one evening, in a pugilistic encounter with one of her 
patrons and nearly killed him. Molinchard had attended 
the wounded man for nothing, and saved the virago from 
the penitentiary; and now her fists and her eyes were alike 
at the service of her employer whom she served with dog- 
like fidelity. 

The doctor depended solely upon this female Cerberus 
to frustrate any attempt to escape on the part of his two 
prisoners; but he had been unwilling to subject Eenee to 
the humiliation of her direct surveillance. 

Mother Ponisse entered Mile, de Saint Senier's apart- 
ments only to put them in order, and had received instruc- 
tions to answer no questions the young lady might address 
to her. 

After taking leave of his visitors, he returned to his office 
where Mother Ponisse was in waiting to inform him that all 
was quiet in the department intrusted to her charge; and 
he was beginning to hope that he should soon, be rid of his 
troublesome guests when, to his surprise, Valnoir and Mile. 
Charmiere re-entered the office. 

" We have come to ask a favor, monsieur," said Eose 
with her most irresistible smile. "You will not take 
offense, I trust?" 

" Not at all, not at all," stammered Molinchard. 

" Monsieur de Valnoir is trying to persuade me that I 
am indiscreet, but I am going to make the venture. " 

" You are quite right; and I shall be delighted — " 

" To oblige me. I was sure of it. Besides, I warn you 
that if you refuse I shall be very angry with you." 



440 THE RED BAND. 

" But I have no intention of refusing your request; that 
is — unless — unless you ask impossibilities. ' ' 

" Take care, doctor," said Mile, de Charmiere, " your 
response is rather Jesuitical. " 

" But I can not promise without knowing — " 

" But you must know, doctor, that we women do not rec- 
ognize the existence of impossibilities, and that I shall ac- 
cept no excuse." 

" But will you be kind enough to tell me, mademoi- 
selle-" 

" Ah, well, I want to go through your establishment and 
talk with your patients." 

The doctor sprung up and turned pale at the same in- 
stant; indeed, he could hardly summon up strength to 
murmur : 

: ' Impossible!" 

" Oh, doctor, doctor, I thought better of you than that," 
said Rose, playfully shaking her finger at him. 

" But I assure you, mademoiselle, that such a visit would 
have no interest for you. My patients are all poor and 
common people, many of them afflicted with very loathsome 
diseases, and the sight — " 

" Is one to which I am not unaccustomed," interrupted 
Mile, de Charmiere. " I have been acting as assistant 
nurse in a hospital for more than a month." 

" You might as well yield, doctor," said Valnoir. " You 
know there is no such thing as successfully contending with 
a pretty woman's caprice. " 

The first moment of alarm over, Molinchard began to 
wonder if Mile, de Charmiere meant mischief in asking to 
go through the house, or if the request was simply the re- 
sult of a whim, and to say to himself that it would perhaps 
be better to yield to this caprice and take the lady through 
the rooms occupied by the ordinary patients. 

" Ah, well, mademoiselle, as you insist, I am ready to act 
as your guide," said he after a short silence. 



THE RED BAND. 441 

" Good! good!" exclaimed Rose, gayly. " I knew you 
were a charming man. Come, are you ready?" she added, 
springing up like a child impatient to be off. 

" I warn you that you will have any number of stairs to 
climb," said the doctor, now thoroughly reassured. 

" And I warn you that I intend to see everything. To 
begin with, you must show me the insane girl. " 

The last two words fell upon Molinchard like a thunder- 
bolt, and he recoiled a step or two in positive terror. 

" The insane girl!" he repeated, with a bewildered air. 

" Yes, the girl who has lost her betrothed. I adore love 
stories, so you can understand my anxiety to see the victim 
of an all-absorbing passion. They are so rare in these 
days/' 

The unfortunate doctor literally did not know which way 
to turn, and in his agitation, he forgot all about the ro- 
mantic story he had told to Podensac, and began to deny 
the presence of any such person in his establishment. 

" I assure you, mademoiselle, that we treat no mental 
maladies here," he said, in a voice that trembled percepti- 
bly, " and that I know nothing whatever of any such per- 
son as you describe. " 

" Really, this is a little too good!" cried Rose, clapping 
her gloved hands jubilantly. " By your manner, doctor, one 
would be strongly tempted to believe that you are in love 
with your patient, and aspire to take her lost lover's place." 

Without suspecting it, Mile, de Charmiere had hit the 
nail exactly upon the head, and this time Molinchard was 
positively speechless with consternation. 

" It is false!" he murmured, passing his hand across his 
forehead. " There is no such young girl here." 

" Would you like to see her writing?" retorted Rose, 
tranquilly, handing him the note written by Renee. 

She had slipped it under her glove after Taupier showed 
it to her in the court-yard, and now drew it from its hiding- 
place, 



442 THE BED BAND. 

The unfortunate physician took the scrap of paper, 
glanced at it, and dropped his arms with a despairing 
gesture. 

" Now, doctor, my good doctor, my dear doctor/' sim- 
pered Mile, de Oharmiere, " now that it is useless for you 
to try to keep your secret any longer, let me see this poor 
girl. I am sure she is lovely. " 

The very imminence of the danger restored Molinchard's 
presence of mind, in a measure at least. 

"Ah, well, mademoiselle," he replied, assuming an air 
of wounded dignity, " as you insist so much I am obliged 
to tell you that this young girl was intrusted to my care by 
her father, and that I have medical reasons for not allow- 
ing her to see any visitors. The presence of any stranger 
always brings on terrible nervous spasms, and I should fail 
in my duty as a physician if I yielded to a request that can 
be prompted only by idle curiosity." 

This rather disconcerting rebuff produced no effect upon 
Mile, de Oharmiere, however; on the contrary, she looked 
Molinchard full in the face, and said with a smile that cer- 
tainly meant mischief: 

" Curiosity is a good thing sometimes, doctor." 

Molinchard was vainly endeavoring to find a reply when 
the Ponisse, who seemed to be in the habit of appearing at 
critical moments, opened the door a few inches, and cried: 

" Come, doctor, come quick. Number 8 is dying." 

" Excuse me," cried the doctor, rushing out of the 
office. 

This hasty departure put an end to the conversation, and 
of course upset all Mile, de Charmiere's plans. She de- 
liberated for a moment whether she should wait for the 
doctor's return or content herself for the present with 
what she had just learned. 

Valnoir insisted that they should leave it at once. The 
whole visit was most distasteful to him, and as he suspected 
no other mystery in the establishment than that of the 



THE RED BAND. 443 

securities deposited there by the deceased treasurer of the 
" Moon with the Teeth/ ' he concluded to allow Taupier to 
try to secure possession of them without any assistance from 
him, and the pair finally decided to rejoin their friends in 
the court-yard. 

They reached it just as Taupier learned of the return of 
Eegina and Eoger de Saint Senier, and as this appalling in- 
telligence made him desire to return home as soon as pos- 
sible in order to make some arrangements for averting the 
danger that threatened them, he made the reappearance of 
Valnoir and his companion an excuse for taking leave of 
the major, whose conversation had ceased to interest him 
now he had learned all he wished to know. 

As Eose approached he stepped up near enough to her to 
say in a low tone: 

" I have just heard an important piece of news." 

" And I have found a new clew," replied the lady, in 
the same tone. 

This was no place to inform each other of the result of 
their investigations, and both were evidently anxious to 
terminate the visit. 

Podensac exerted all his fascinations to detain the fair 
Eose, but in vain. He was obliged to content himself with 
the graciously accorded permission to call and thank her in 
person at her house on the Place de la Madeleine as soon as 
he had entirely recovered. 

One thing struck Mile, de Oharmiere very forcibly on 
her departure. The front door was open, and no one 
seemed to be in attendance upon it, and this fact certainly 
indicated an unusual confusion and disorder in the house- 
hold, for this establishment was generally guarded like a 
prison, and no one could either enter or leave it without 
the knowledge of the ex-cantini&re. 

But the attention of Mother Ponisse was engrossed by 
other and graver matters just at that time. The news she 
had brought her master in the midst of his conversation 



444 THE RED BAND. 

with Mile, de Charmiere was sufficient explanation of her 
absence, for No. 8 was no other than the unfortunate 
Countess de Muire. Molinchard understood which patient 
was meant instantly, and rushed out of the office without 
troubling himself any further about his visitors. 

" My desk is locked, and Valnoir is not the man to 
break open other persons' drawers," he thought, as he 
hurried upstairs. 

Mother Ponisse followed him, puffing and blowing like 
a porpoise. 

" What is the matter with her?" asked the doctor, 
anxiously. 

" Another of those attacks. Her limbs suddenly became 
rigid, then her eyes rolled back in her head, and she called 
for the other woman — the young one." 

It did not take Molinchard more than a minute to reach 
the upper story and throw open the door of No. 8, which 
had served as a prison for the poor countess. On an iron 
bedstead, hung with calico curtains like the beds of a hos- 
pital, lay the form of Mme. de Muire. Her face was wax- 
like in its pallor, and her emaciated form was distinctly 
visible under the thin coverlid. 

Molinchard cleared the space between the door and the 
bed with a single bound, and seizing the hand of the sick 
woman began to feel her pulse. At the same time he 
scrutinized the face on which death had already set its seal. 

There were a few faint pulsations, then the circulation 
stopped entirely. t 

Her eyes became glassy, and her mouth opened convul- 
sively to utter a name — the name of Eenee. 

But the voice died away in the throat of the dying 
woman. 

Molinchard let go his hold upon her arm, and it fell 
heavily upon the bed. 

" She is dead!" he murmured. 

Just as he uttered these words Mother Ponisse entered 



THE RED BAND. 445 

the room, her obesity having retarded her progress very 
considerably, and it was in a panting voice that she asked, 
cynically: 

" Well, how is the old woman?" 

" It is all over. Hush!" said the doctor. 

" Well, it's no great loss," growled the virago. " She 
gave me more trouble than all the rest of the patients put 
together. " 

Molinchard made no reply to this unfeeling speech. 

He was holding a small mirror to the lips of the countess, 
and he soon perceived that no moisture dimmed the shining 
surface of the glass. 

After this test was concluded he dropped into a chair, 
the picture of consternation. 

The former cantiniere was not in the habit of seeing him 
display so much emotion in the presence of death, and 
thought it advisable to remind him of the requirements of 
the situation. 

" I had better go for an undertaker, hadn't I?" she 
asked, in the same tone in which she would have suggested 
preparing dinner. 

The doctor started like a man suddenly awakened from 
a dream, 
i "I forbid you to do anything of the kind/ ' he said, dryly. 

" What do you intend to do with the body? This isn't 
a public hospital, and you 're not going to dissect her. " 

" Silence!" cried Molinchard. " I will go to the mayor's 
office myself. " 

" Very well, very well! I'm not anxious to go to Mont- 
martre, I assure you." 

" Go down and tell that lady and gentleman that I am 
with a patient, and that they must excuse me," said 
Molinchard. 

" I'm going," replied the old woman, sulkily. 

' ' But not a word to them about what has occurred 
here," added the doctor, quickly. 

V-3d half. 



446 THE BED BAND. 

" It isn't worth while to tell me that/' growled Mother 
Ponisse. " I know my business. " 

And she went out banging the door behind her without 
any of the care usually observed in chambers of death. 

Molinchard, on being left alone, became a prey to 
thoughts that were by no means cheerful in their nature. 
This was not due to an excessive sensibility on his part, 
however, for the practice of his profession had long since 
accustomed him to death and its lugubrious accessories. 
Nor was it that he took such a deep interest in the victim 
of his friend Prapillon's infamous machinations, but be- 
cause this death was an event which he had not anticipated, 
and which might be productive of the gravest consequences. 

In the first place it compelled him to publicly admit 
Mme. de Muire's presence in his house. One can immure 
a living being, but one can not conceal a dead person. But 
unfortunate as this was, it troubled him much less than the 
effect this terrible news was likely to produce upon his 
other prisoner. He could conceal her aunt's death from 
the unfortunate Eenee for awhile, but the day would surely 
come when further concealment would be impossible. 

In view of the absurd hope of winning the young girl's 
favor that Molinchard still entertained, this event was es- 
pecially unfortunate, for how could he hope that his dreams 
would be realized when the remembrance of the unfortu- 
nate countess must ever stand between Eenee and himself? 

On the other hand, how was he to tell Mile, de Saint 
Senier that she had just lost her second mother, and that 
he had not even allowed her to give her a farewell kiss. 

" Still she is now alone in the world," he murmured, 
thinking of the poor captive. " Who knows but she might 
accept me as a protector under such circumstances? I am 
going to tell her all." 

And having come to this decision he left the room, taking 
care to double lock the door and carry the key away with 
him. 



THE BED BAND. 447 



CHAPTEE XXIV. 

Since a fatal imprudence had placed her in Frapillon's 
power Renee de Saint Senier's life had been one of intoler- 
able torture. 

That first day of captivity in which her aunt had been 
torn from her was followed by long hours of frantic despair. 

When she woke from the deep sleep into which the opiate 
had plunged her her first thought had been of the absent 
ones. 

What had become of the loved ones for whose sake she 
had endured privations and dangers of every kind for more 
than a month? 

Roger was the inmate of a Prussian prison, and her 
second mother, whose sympathy and fortitude had been a 
never-failing support in the time of adversity, had in turn 
become a victim to the sort of fatality that seemed to pur- 
sue all who bore the name of Saint Senier. 

In vain she explored every nook and corner of the suite 
of apartments in which she had been incarcerated, opened 
every article of furniture, and examined every drawer, not 
the slightest clew could she find. 

Mme. de Muire had suddenly disappeared without leav- 
ing any trace of her presence or of her departure. 

Frapillon, to her great astonishment, had not visited her 
again, so the resolve with which she had armed herself 
against her persecution was not put to the test; and during 
the early days of her captivity the solitude that followed 
her short interview with the pretended physician was not 
the least of her troubles. 

Her energy dwindled away for want of an opportunity to 
exercise it in a struggle with her odious persecutor, and she 
even began to long to find herself face to face with her 



448 THE BED BAND. 

perfidious adversary rather than be obliged to endure this 
uncertainty any longer. 

She overcame her disgust sufficiently to address a few 
questions to the repulsive automaton who seemed to have 
charge of the rooms, but these questions elicited only eva- 
sive responses and coarse remarks; besides, Mother Ponisse 
generally managed to perform her duties while Eenee was 
asleep, so not unfrequently several days elapsed without 
the poor captive catching even a glimpse of this assistant 
jailer. 

Soon, she ceased to notice either the presence or absence 
of this unscrupulous servant, and to consider her as a kind 
of unfeeling and inflexible automaton. 

Her life passed almost as if she had been a prisoner in 
the castle of the Sleeping Beauty. The long, monotonous 
days dragged slowly by, followed by anxious and sleepless 
nights, and she spent hour after hour seated in her arm- 
chair with her head thrown back, her eyes closed, and her 
hands clasped. 

Benumbed by the torpor of despair, she sometimes lost 
the power to think, but when she woke from this lethargy 
she tried to shake off the despondency that weighed her 
down and to regain a little of her old energy. 

Her only diversion consisted in wandering about the 
neglected garden connected with her prison, but she had 
had plenty of time to become familiar with every inch of 
the dreary ground. She had counted the stones in the 
wall, tried the strength of the low gate through which 
Frapillon had disappeared, and measured with her eye the 
height of the walls that surrounded her. She never ceased 
to realize the absolute impossibility of flight. To a frail 
and unsophisticated young girl this apparently innocent 
establishment was an invulnerable prison. 

She did not even think of trying to make her escape, 
but began to take an interest in the plants which, like her- 
self, were pining within these grim walls. A rose-tree that 



THE RED BANC. 449 

was perishing for want of care and of sunlight became her 
favorite. She tended it with the zeal and passion that 
captivity inspires in the hearts of all prisoners; she knew 
the exact number of branches upon it, and carefully re- 
moved the frost that settled upon it every night. 

Such were the occupations and diversions of the early part 
of her captivity, for the weather, which remained warm and 
dry, allowed a daily promenade in the garden. Then 
came days of rain and snow that kept her a prisoner in her 
apartments. 

One morning, while she was sitting in front of the fire 
in the little drawing-room, a slight sound made her turn 
her head. 

Dr. Molin chard was standing beside her arm-chair. He 
had merely dropped in a moment, he said, to inquire about 
her health, and ask if she desired anything. 

This first interview proved a very stormy one, for Eenee 
poured forth a torrent of the bitterest reproaches; but she 
did not succeed in making this man cast aside the gentle 
reserve in which he had intentionally enveloped himself. 
Prayers and reproaches alike proved unavailing. 

Molinchard persisted in acting as if he were dealing with 
an unreasonable child who could only be managed with in- 
finite care and tact; and the young girl, at last becoming 
exasperated beyond endurance, put an end to the conversa- 
tion by fleeing into the garden. 

The doctor did not intrude upon her again that day, but 
he returned the next day, and the day after, and every day. 

On his third visit, Mile, de Saint Senier understood the 
situation. She was considered insane, and she was treated 
accordingly. 

It was the bitterest moment of her captivity. 

After this discovery, she was unable to close her eyes for 
several nights, and this insomnia finally brought on a state 
of extraordinary nervous excitement. 

She even began to wonder if she were not mistaken in 



450 THE RED BAND. 

regard to her own mental condition, and if she had not 
really lost her reason. 

It seemed to her sometimes that she was the victim of 
a dream or of an hallucination, and that her real life had 
ceased the evening she left the cottage. She dared not 
look in the glass for fear of seeing her features emaciated 
and her eyes glittering with fever. 

But fortunately this crisis was of short duration. 

After a few days of terrible mental suffering and inde- 
scribable anxiety Renee became mistress of herself once 
more. 

Her sound judgment regained its ascendancy; her nerves 
became calm once more, and after carefully reviewing the 
circumstances of her abduction, she finally came to the 
conclusion that her enemies must be the same jiersons who 
had abducted Eegina and Landreau. 

As for Mine, de Muire, Renee, in spite of the doctor's 
evasive replies, did not doubt that she was pining in some 
cell in that horrible place. 

So, without wearing herself out in vain conjectures, the 
young girl now concentrated all her energies upon the dis- 
covery of some means of escape. 

To escape without assistance was an absolute impossi- 
bility, and she could hope for that only from outsiders or 
from other inmates of the house than she had seen, so she 
decided to resort to missives of a similar character to that 
Taupier had picked up. 

She had no pen, ink, or letter-paper, so she had been 
obliged to use as a substitute a bit of charcoal and a scrap 
of paper in which the Ponisse had brought some butter. 
Moreover, the walls that surrounded her garden were very 
high, and more than once her strength did not prove equal 
to throwing her stone over this obstacle; but she had suc- 
ceeded a number of times, and she had every reason to be- 
lieve that all her letters were not lost, for she often heard a 
sound of voices on the other side of the wall, so as the 



1'IIK l\T.l) r.ANT). 451 

neighboring court-yard was occupied, there was a strong 
likelihood that the curious projectile had beeu picked up. 

Still, she had never heard anything to confirm her in this 
belief. Even the doctor, though Podensac had shown him 
two or three of these notes, had not said a word to his 
prisoner about them, from which fact she erroneously con- 
cluded that he knew nothing at all about them. 

She had too much good sense to think of such a thing as 
calling to any one, or screaming for help. Her words 
would not have been distinctly heard, and her cries would 
only have incited her jailers to redoubled vigilance. 

On the day of Valnoir's visit she repeated her experi- 
ment, and while the arrival of her strange missive was agi- 
tating the persons on the other side of the wall, she was 
walking up and down the little garden dreaming of the 
possible consequences of this fresh attempt. 

When she returned to the drawing-room she found 
Molinchard there, but this visit from the doctor caused her 
no surprise. She had become accustomed to these sudden 
appearances and disappearances, which had frightened her 
so much in the early part of her captivity. The girl knew, 
too, that he could enter by the door that opened into the 
little dining-room, though she had never seen him use it, 
for he had always taken advantage of a moment when her 
back was turned to disappear. 

The maneuvers of her jailer interested Mile, de Saint 
Senier very little, however. She had nothing to hope for 
from him, she felt sure; and her only object now was to 
rid herself of his unwelcome presence as soon as possible. 

That day she felt especially anxious to be alone. Some 
secret presentiment told her that her missive had fallen into 
the hands of persons who would not ignore it this time; 
and it seemed to her that a change was about to be wrought 
in her destiny — that she was soon to be free. 

She received Molinchard more coldly and ungraciously 
than ever; but this did not appear to disconcert him in the 



452 THE RED EAND. 

least. He seemed less awkward and much more animated 
than usual; and Renee even noticed that his large eyes, 
which were generally so dull, glittered with remarkable 
brilliancy. 

"How do you find yourself to-day, mademoiselle?" he 
inquired, in a voice that trembled a little. 

" Very well, sir," rejDlied Mile, de Saint Senier, with a 
bitter smile. " I am surrounded with such jealous care 
here that it would be very ungrateful in me to complain. " 

" If I could feel sure that you were speaking seriously 1 
should be happy, indeed," stammered the doctor. 

Eenee did not even take the trouble to reply to this re- 
mark except by a look of withering disdain, and seated 
herself by the fire without paying any further attention to 
her visitor. 

This was generally the means she employed to terminate 
the interview; and Molinchard, not daring to persist in his 
efforts to keep up a conversation, generally beat a retreat 
after a minute or two. 

This time, however, he took a chair and placed it at one 
corner of the hearth, where he could see the young girl's 
face. 

" Mademoiselle," he began with rather more assurance, 
" I want to speak to you to-day, upon a very serious mat- 
ter." 

Renee shrugged her shoulders slightly, and without look- 
ing at him, replied: 

" What is the use? Am I not mad?" 

" I have never said so. " 

" Then why am I here?" 

" Why, it seems to me that you came here of your own 
free will, and that it was at your own request that my 
friend took you from the cottage." 

"Ah! this is really too much!" exclaimed Renee. 
" You can continue to talk in this strain, if you choose, 
but I shall not take the trouble to answer you. " 



THE BED BAND. 453 

The doctor, who had entered with eminently conciliatory 
intentions, secretly cursed his awkwardness and want of 
tact. 

" You misunderstand my motives, mademoiselle/' he 
said, timidly, " and if you will hear me to the end, you 
will be convinced that I have had nothing to do with the 
grief and annoyance you have experienced here. There is 
no longer any reason why I should conceal from you the 
fact that my friend, on bringing you here, declared that 
you were suffering from a malady that necessitated great 
care and strict seclusion. " 

" You could not tell me more politely that I had lost my 
reason," said the girl, ironically. 

"I have studied your condition carefully," continued 
Molinchard, without paying any attention to this scornful 
interruption, and I tell you frankly that I have felt strong 
doubts of the truth of my friend's assertions from the very 
first of your sojourn here." 

" Indeed! only doubts?" 

" But now my doubts have become convictions, and I am 
very happy to admit that my friend was mistaken." 

Eenee turned suddenly and confronted the doctor. 

" Ah! so you are kind enough to admit that I am not 
mad!" she exclaimed. 

" I not only admit it, but am ready to testify to the fact, 
publicly. " 

" Then you will open the doors of this house for me in- 
stantly!" exclaimed Mile, de Saint Senier, springing to her 
feet. 

" Would that I could," sighed the doctor, with a contrite 
air. " I will certainly do so before very long, but first, I 
must beg you to listen to what I have to say to you." 

"lam listening," said Eenee, dryly. 

" Several very sad and unfortunate events have occurred 
since your arrival here," began the doctor. 

The girl made an impatient gesture. 



Ao4 THE JIED BAND. 

" You must have felt surprised at the non-appearance of 
the friend to whom I am indebted for the pleasure— I 
should say the happiness-—" 

" Say rather the person who so basely deceived me. 
That would be the shortest and most correct way of put- 
ting it. But allow me to say that though he has not seen 
fit to intrude his unwelcome presence upon me, he has cer- 
tainly secured a worthy substitute/' 

"You are cruel, mademoiselle; but I can understand 
and excuse your anger. My unfortunate friend has not re- 
turned simply because — he is dead." 

" Indeed!" responded Eenee, indifferently. 

" Yes, it is supposed that he was murdered. His lifeless 
body was found in front of the cottage in which you 
formerly resided — " 

" The keys of which he stole, in order that he might 
enter it by night like a common burglar. But what is all 
this to me?" she demanded, haughtily. 

" Can you guess who is accused of the murder?" asked 
Molinchard. 

" Kb, nor does it matter in the least to me." 

" They accuse the persons who resided in the cottage," 
announced the doctor, with an important air, ' ' and who 
disappeared the night the crime was committed." 

"This is infamous!" exclaimed Eenee, "and I trust 
that you will be the first to testify that there is no founda- 
tion for such a charge. " 

" I shall, of course, but I doubt very much if people will 
believe me. The case is so shrouded in mystery. They 
say, too, that a man was concealed in the cottage, and — ''" 

" What has become of the man?" eagerly asked the girl, 
who had become very pale. 

" The man has disappeared, but the authorities are 
searching for him, and for you, too, mademoiselle." 

Eenee seemed deeply agitated. At last, after quite a 
long silence, she said in calmer tones: 



THE RED BAND. 455 

" I hardly know what to think of all you have just told 
me, but as you are kind enough to admit that I am in 
possession of my reason, I have a request to make of 
you." 

" Speak, mademoiselle," said the doctor, promptly. 
" I implore you to take me to my aunt, Madame de Muire, 
who has been separated from me for reasons I am utterly 
unable to explain. These reasons, however, have probably 
ceased to exist, and I therefore beg you will restore to me 
the only relative whose advice and counsel I can ask. If 
you will do this, I shall be forever grateful to you. " 

Eenee did not utter these last words without an effort; 
but she thought that her jailer might possibly be actuated 
by kindly motives, so she determined to make this final 
appeal to him. 

Molinchard, instead of replying, assumed a grave, even 
melancholy air. 

" Well, sir?" insisted the young girl. 

" I have a great calamity to announce to you," mur- 
mured the doctor, sadly. 

" A calamity! What do you mean?" 

" Madame de Muire has just succumbed, after a long 
struggle, and—'" 

" Dead!" cried Eenee, sinking back in her arm-chair — 
"dead! Oh, my God!" 

And burying her face in her hands, she burst into an 
agony of weeping. 

" It was only to be expected, mademoiselle," said Molin- 
chard in that tone of commonplace consolation that is so 
exasperating to those who truly mourn. "Her malady 
was one of those against which human skill is powerless. 
I gave her every attention, and would have saved her, I 
assure you, had it been possible." 

" Alone, alone! I am alone in the world!" 

These words were distinctly audible between Kenee's 
sobs, and the doctor, who was prepared for this outburst 



456 THE RED BAND. 

of grief, thought that the moment had come to offer his 
victim hope and consolation. 

" No; you are not alone in the world/' he exclaimed, 
with a warmth that rendered him more ridiculous than 
ever, "for there is someone who will gladly watch over 
you, and protect you, and who — who loves you. " 

Eenee looked up at him in tearful wonder. 

" Yes; I love you, mademoiselle," continued Molin- 
chard, trying to take her hand. 

" Wretch!" cried Mile, de Saint Senier, springing up, 
pale with anger. 

The word had been uttered in such a tone of suppressed 
wrath that the doctor recoiled in positive terror. 

" How dare you?" she continued, with a look of wither- 
ing contempt. 

Molinchard felt the more disconcerted from the fact that 
he was not accustomed to situations of this kind, and that 
this unfortunate declaration of love was, perhaps, the first 
he had ever made in his life. 

" I certainly had no intention of offending you, made- 
moiselle," he faltered. 

" Your presence here is in itself an outrage, and you will 
oblige me by leaving instantly." 

These scornful words, while they cooled the ardor of the 
lover, exasperated the democrat to the highest pitch. 

The envy and rancor that were a part of the man's nat- 
ure regained their ascendency in his heart, and he forgot 
his love for this young aristocrat, and only remembered 
that she was at his mercy. 

"Leaving!" repeated Molinchard, with an evil smile. 
" I haven't the slightest desire to do anything of the kind. I 
am in my own house, recollect, and here I intend to remain. ' ' 

"So this is the secret of your pretended interest!" ex- 
claimed Mile, de Saint Senier, thoroughly exasperated. 
" I might have known it, and I reproach myself bitterly 
for having consented to listen to you. You can kill me 



THE RED BAND. io7 

now, as you killed my aunt; but while I live you shall not 
touch me!" 

And before the doctor had time to make a movement, 
she sprung to the glass door, opened it, and rushed out 
into the garden. 

Molinchard had lost his wits completely, and he darted 
after her without recollecting that he would lose a part of 
bis advantage in the open air. 

"Help, help!" cried Kenee, in a voice that rang out 
dear and piercing in her terror. 

" It is useless, my beauty. No one listens to mad- 
tvomen," said the wretch, grinding his teeth. 

The young girl realized the truth of what he said, and 
ielt that she was indeed lost. She had taken refuge in a 
jorner of the garden, and to keep herself from falling, she 
vas obliged to cling to the wall which separated her from 
;he court-yard in which Podensac had lingered to smoke 
lis pipe after the departure of his visitors. 

Molinchard advanced toward his prisoner with the cat- 
ike step of a tiger that is about to leap upon its prey. His 
jyes were haggard and Ins face flushed. His long, bony 
ingers trembled with rage, and oath after oath issued from 
us drawn lips. 

" Will you come back into the house or not?" he hissed, 
vith a sullen oath that sounded like the savage growl of a 
vild beast. 

"Help! help! Murder, murder!" shrieked Mile, de 
Saint Senier. 

"If you don't hush, I'll find away to silence you!" 
r elled Molinchard. 

But as he was about to seize her, a clear and ringing 
r oice resounded from the other side of the wall. 

" Eesist! "We are coming to your aid!" it cried. 

" Fool of a major!" hissed the wretch, thinking he rec- 
ignizod Podensac 's voice. " I defy you to get in here, but 
'ou shall pay for this." 



458 THE RED BAND. 

The doctor certainly had very little reason to dread any 
interference on the part of the commander of the Enfants 
Perdus. 

He felt sure of Mother Ponisse's ability to stop him en 
route, but even supposing that Podensac succeeded in find- 
ing his way to this separate wing, the doctor counted upon 
the sturdy oaken door as a present protection, and upon 
his wonderful powers of prevarication to explain this scene 
of violence afterward. 

Kenee, however, had become a little more hopeful. Some 
one had heard and answered her appeal, and this encourag- 
ing fact gave her fresh courage; besides, the voice that had 
just responded aroused a blissful memory in her heart. 

"Help! help! Save me! Save Kenee de Saint Senier!" 
she cried at the top of her voice. 

Two exclamations answered this frantic appeal, but the 
young girl did not hear them, for, with the iron hand of 
her odious'persecutor holding her wrists, while he tried to 
close her mouth with the other, poor Kenee had no other 
resource than to throw herself on the frozen ground and 
resist her enemy's efforts to drag her along with all the 
strength at her command. 

The brutal doctor had become positively frantic with 
rage, and it is a wonder that he did not strangle his victim 
then and there. Perhaps he longed to, but dared not; per- 
haps, too, the bright sunlight frightened him, and he felt 
the need of first dragging his victim into his den, like some 
beast of prey. 

He succeeded in doing this after ten minutes of violent 
effort. The door leading into the drawing-room was open, 
and Kenee vainly tried to clutch it, to prevent herself from 
being dragged inside; but Molinchard's powerful hands tore 
her from it, and threw her panting and bruised upon the 
floor. 

The monster uttered a yell of delight, and rushed for- 
ward to lock the only door through which the young girl's 



THE RED BAND. 459 

cries could escape; and lie was about returning to her when 
a dull sound attracted his attention and marred the joy 
of his triumph. 

It was the sound of hurried footsteps, mingled with the 
confused murmur of angry voices. 

Molinchard paused to listen. 

His victim was lying at his feet, apparently unconscious. 

The sound grew louder; it came from the interior of the 
building that adjoined Kenee's prison. 

Molinchard ran into the dining-room. There he could 
distinctly hear voices on the other side of the strong oaken 
door. 

" This is the place," said a voice the doctor felt sure was 
that of Podensac. 

" There's nobody here, I tell you/' replied a husky voice, 
which was unquestionably that of Mother Ponisse. 

Molinchard understood what was passing in the corridor 
perfectly now, and felt sure that his faithful subordinate 
would find some means of averting the danger. 

Several heavy blows on the door interrupted these con- 
soling reflections, however. 

" Open the door! open the door! I know you are there, 
and I want to come in!" cried the deep bass voice of the 
leader of the Enfants Perdus. 

" Oh, yes, try to open it," muttered Molinchard. " You 
won't succeed, though. The lock is strong." 

" Will you open the door, or will you not?" repeated 
Podensac. 

And, receiving no reply, he added, in the stern, curt 
tones of a commanding officer: 

" Now, my brave man!" 

"Ay, ay, sir," replied a coarse voice the doctor had 
never heard before, and in another moment there resound- 
ed a loud cracking noise that made him start with fear and 
surprise. 

" Good God! they are trying to burst open the door!" 



460 THE RED BAND. 

He stepped forward to see the result of the attempt, and 
felt considerably reassured on perceiving that the panels 
were intact aud the lock unbroken. 

" Now, my brave fellow, try her again!" cried the major, 

Another violent push made the big door bend, and Molin- 
chard sprung back as if afraid it was about to fall upon 
him. 

" Oh, misery! they are tearing the whole house to 
pieces!" 

" I am going for a commissioner of police!" cried Moth- 
er Ponisse. 

" If you move, I'll wring your neck, old woman; do you 
hear me?" thundered Podensac. 

Molinchard did not lose a word of this brief dialogue, 
which it is needless to say greatly increased the terror of 
Mile, de Saint Senier's persecutor. 

" Kenee, here we are! We are coming to your rescue!" 
cried a voice that had not been heard before. 

" They know her! I am lost!" muttered the doctor, 
turning as if to flee. 

His victim was standing behind him. She was as pale 
as death, and her hair was disheveled, but she held herself 
proudly erect, aud her eyes sparkled with joy. 

Molinchard recoiled as if confronted by a specter, and his 
natural cowardice manifested itself in this abject appeal : 

" Mademoiselle," he faltered, " I hardly know what has 
passed; but I am not to blame. It was only to save you 
from the consequences of the murder committed at the 
cottage, I — I — " 

The wretch had lost his wits completely. 
. " You will forgive me, won't you?" he whined. " You 
will not denounce me. You will only say that — " 

" I shall say that you tried to kill me as you killed my 
aunt," replied the girl, with unutterable scorn in her eyes 
and in her voice. 

Molinchard uttered a hoarse exclamation. 



THE RED BAND. 



461 



The screws that held the lock had just started a little 
under a still more violent shock. One more effort, and it 
would yield. 

" You sha'n't have a chance to tell such a falsehood. I'll 
kill you first," shouted the fiend, springing at Renee's 
throat with the evident intention of strangling her. 

" Attention, my man!" cried the powerful voice of the 
leader of the besieging party. " Once more, and for the 
last time. Now for it!" 

A loud crash followed this exclamation of triumph. 

The ponderous staple in which the bolt rested had been 
;orn from the wall, and almost simultaneously the door it- 
self flew open, giving free passage to the young girl's res- 
cuers. 

Their abrupt entrance would have seemed really ludi- 
crous, had not the danger been so great. 

The stalwart personage whose last vigorous push had ac- 
complished such wonders suddenly finding himself deprived 
sf the support afforded by the door, pitched headlong into 
the room and against the doctor, felling him to the ground. 
A.t the same time, Mile, de Saint Senier sprung into the 
arms that had opened to receive her, murmuring Roger's 
uame in a transport of delight. f 

" Renee!" he cried, " Renee! You are not hurt? Say 
you are not hurt!" 

But his betrothed had not strength to reply. 

" Carry her into the next room," said Podensac, who 
had constituted himself commander-in-chief of the army 
that was besieging the Molin chard Bastile. 

While Roger and his friend lifted the young girl, and 
carried her to the very arm-chair in which she had just list, 
ened to that insulting declaration of love, the doctor was 
struggling to release himself from the grasp of the pon- 
derous assailant that had fallen with and upon him, but all 
his efforts proved unavailing, and a harsh voice vociferated 
in his ear: 



4G2 THE RED BAND. 

"Ah, scoundrel! I've got you now, and you'll never 
have a chance to eat another meal." 

"Don't kill him! don't kill him!" cried Podensac. 
" We shall need him by and by." 

" Release the man, Antoine," cried Soger. 

Pilevert, for it was he, reluctantly obeyed, though he 
could not resist the temptation to give the doctor a kick as 
he rose to his feet, saying, in the same tone he would have 
used in speaking to a dog : 

" Get up! get up, I say!" 

The doctor did not move, however. 

" Where is the old woman?" asked Podensac. 

" She has run away, I do believe!" exclaimed Antoine. 
" I'll bet she has gone in search of a commissioner of po' 
lice. I'll see that this scoundrel has no chance to get away, 
though," he added, stationing himself in the door-way. 

Eenee had not lost consciousness entirely, but her nerves 
had undergone such a shock that she had fallen into a sort 
of stupor. Her eyes were full of tears, but they were ut- 
terly devoid of expression. 

" If you will take my advice," said Podensac, " you will 
get your cousin away from here as soon as possible. I 
don't believe this is a very safe place for her or for you." 

" But how can that be managed?" inquired Eoger. "She 
is not able to walk, as you see. " 

" You must take her uv/ay in a carriage, of course, but, 
first, let us get rid of this precious doctor. It isn't neces- 
sary for him to hear our conversation. I'll settle my own 
little account with him by and by. Pick him up and 
carry him out into the garden, Pilevert." 
. Before the doctor could get upon his feet, the acrobat 
seized him around the middle of the body, and, lifting him 
like a sack of flour, walked into the drawing-room with his 
burden. 

" I protest against this violence/ ' cried Molinchard. " It 
is a foul conspiracy!" 



THE RED BAND. 463 



(c ■ 



''Yell all you like, old fellow," sneered Pilevert. 
" Where shall I put him?" he added, turning to Podensac. 

" In here," the major replied, opening the door of the 
room in which Mme. de Muire spent the first night of her 
captivity. " In the garden he might create a disturbance 
among his patients, but in this room he can trouble no 
one. " 

" That's so!" cried the acrobat, throwing the doctor on 
the bed with as little ceremony as if he had been a bundle, 
and before Molinchard had time to offer any resistance the 
door was closed and securely locked. 

" That's what I call quick work, " said the commander 
of the Enfants Perdus, " and now, my brave fellow, do me 
the favor to guard the passage while we arrange for our 
departure."* 

" I think you had better lose no time," continued Poden- 
sac, turning to the lieutenant. " It was certainly your 
lucky star that brought you here to see a wounded comrade 
just when you did. Had you come half an hour sooner 
you would have met Valnoir and his lady-love, to say noth- 
ing of Taupier; and I have an idea that it was a desire to 
find out something about this very lady that brought them 
here. I don't think they're very kindly disposed toward 
you, or toward her for that matter; and as journalists are 
rather dangerous persons in these days we had better not 
wait for their return. Now, my brave fellow," he con- 
tinued, addressing the acrobat, "do us the favor to run 
down to the park and bring us a carriage as soon as possible. " 

" I'm off," cried Antoine. 

But he had taken only a step or two when he suddenly 
paused and exclaimed: 

" I think I shall be spared the trouble of going for a car- 
riage. There is one coming now. " 

Pilevert was not mistaken. It was certainly the roll of 
carriage wheels that he heard. 

" How fortunate!" exclaimed Roger. 



464 THE RED BAND, 

" I don't agree with you/' said the major, shaking his 
head. "It is a very unusual thing to see a carriage up 
here on the heights; and I shouldn't be surprised if this 
was bringing the officer that old hag went in search of. " 

" But I am not afraid of the police," replied Eoger. 

" You have reason to be so long as there is a Taupier in 
the case. "We shall soon know what to think, however, for 
the carriage has stopped." 

There was a moment of silent suspense, then the sound 
of hurried footsteps was heard in the corridor. Had the 
police really come to the aid of the proprietor of the Villa 
on the Heights? 

This seemed more than probable, and it was now too late 
to prevent their interference, however disagreeable it might 
be: so Eoger and Podensac prepared to make the best of it, 
and with eyes fixed on the door quietly awaited the en- 
trance of the officers. 

But just as they expected to see the commissioner appear 
before them the steps paused. The person did not seem 
to know his way very well, for they heard him turn back 
and then again retrace his steps. 

" That is strange," muttered the major. " He doesn't 
seem to know which way to go. He must have lost Mother 
Ponisse on the way." 

"It would be better for us to go boldly out and ask him 
what he wants than to act as if we were hiding," said Saint 
Senier, stepping to the door. 

Just as he reached it some one rapped and a voice 
asked : 

" May I come in?" 

" Certainly," replied the officer. 

The door being no longer held in place by the lock yield- 
ed readily to the slight push that made it turn upon its 
hinges. A man appeared upon the threshold, and two ex- 
clamations resounded simultaneously: 

" My lieutenant!" 



THE RED BAND. 465 

" Landreau!-"' 

It was indeed the old gamekeeper that stood before them 
in the same quaint costume he had worn for some time, but 
he had aged considerably. His hair and beard were snow 
white, and Ins emaciated face testified to the anxiety and 
privations he had undergone. 

But though he had changed in appearance he had the 
same warm heart as in days gone by, for on recognizing his 
master he became nearly frantic with joy. 

It is needless to say that the lieutenant received him with 
open arms. 

" What, is it really you? Do I really see you again, 
Monsieur Roger, and looking so strong and well!" ex- 
claimed the old gamekeeper shedding tears of joy. "Ah! 
the little deaf and dumb girl told me the truth when she 
said that you had entirely recovered from your wound/' 

After an interchange of friendly greetings Eoger went 
back to the drawing-room accompanied by Landreau, who 
had no sooner entered it than his eyes fell upon Renee. 

" Mademoiselle!" he exclaimed, throwing himself on his 
knees beside his young mistress. " Ah! how merciful God 
is to restore you both to me at the same time!" 

He took her hand with even more tenderness than rever- 
ence; but the young girl continued cold and motionless. 
She looked at him but did not seem to recognize him. 

" Mademoiselle, it is I, your old Landreau! Oh, how re- 
joiced I am to see you again! Madame de Muire is the only 
one missing now." 

Receiving no response, he rose in alarm and dropped the 
cold hand he had been holding. 

" What is it? What has happened?" he asked, anxiously, 
turning to the lieutenant. 

" I do not know yet; but I fear she is going to be very 
ill, and I want to get her away from here, " replied Roger. 

"And the sooner you doit the better,' ' exclaimed the 
lieutenant. 



•iOti THE RED UAND. 

" It will be an easy matter., for I have a carriage at the 
door," remarked Landreau. 

" Then help me to carry her to it, for we have no time 
to lose." 

" I think I had better go out and reconnoiter a little 
first," said Podensac. "The old woman may return at 
any moment, and Heaven only knows who she'll bring with 
her. If I see no signs of her I'll return and tell you, and 
we can then carry the young lady to the carriage. After 
you are once out of the house Mother Ponisse will have a 
hard time to find out what has become of you; but I shall 
have a talk with Citizen Molinchard, and if he evinces any 
intention of giving us any further trouble I'll thrash him 
soundly, I promise you." 

And without waiting for any reply Podensac rushed out 
into the passage. 

" How strangely she acts," said Eoger. " I don't know 
what to think of this excessive pallor and this strange 
silence. Who knows but that wretch's violence may have 
impaired her reason?" 

Such a fear was indeed justified by the condition of pros- 
tration and torpor in which the girl remained. 

" And to think that we have nothing here to restore her! 
not even a drop of brandy!" muttered Pilevert. 

" Don't be frightened, lieutenant," said Landreau. 
" I've known mademoiselle ever since she was a child. She 
is very nervous, you see; and any violent shock brings on a 
nervous spasm. It is a peculiarity of the family, and this 
is not the first time I've seen her in such a condition. The 
day you brought her brother home after the duel it was just 
the same, you recollect. " 

" That is true," said the lieutenant, thoughtfully. 

" We shall reach home in an hour, too; and then you'll 
see how faithfully Mademoiselle Eegina will nurse her." 

" You have seen her then? But tell me, my friend, how 
do you happen to be here?" 



THE RED BAND. 4G? 

" She sent me. I have a long story to tell you, lieuten- 
ant." 

" I believed you dead." 

" I was very near to it at one time, I assure you. I have 
been kept in prison two months on the charge of being a 
deserter." 

"A deserter?" 

" Yes. It would take me too long to explain now, so I 
will only say that I was not released until to-day. I didn't 
like to go straight to the cottage for fear something had 
happened there during my stay in prison, so I went first to 
your house to ask if your old concierge who, by the way, 
has remained with the new owners, could give me any news 
of you. It was a good thing that I did, for I learned that 
you had succeeded in making your escape from Saint Ger- 
main in company with Mademoiselle Eegina, that the 
owners of the house had fled before the siege, and that you 
had all come to take up your abode there. And while the 
concierge was talking with me who should come down the 
stairs but little Eegina. She threw her arms around my 
neck and then began to scribble away on her slate, and 
when I heard that you had come here to see a comrade, I 
could stand it no longer, but ran out in search of a carriage 
without even waiting to go upstairs and see your — " 

" You have saved us! and it was Providence that must 
have inspired you with the idea of coming here, "interrupt- 
ed Eoger. 

" And to think that you should have come here merely 
to visit a wounded comrade and found Mademoiselle Eenee !" 
exclaimed Landreau. " How did she happen to be in this 
big barrack of a place that looks to me very much like a 
prison?" 

" I do not know; but I do know that but for me and this 
brave man," said the lieutenant, pointing to PilevL'rt, 
" Eenee would have become the victim of an infamous 
scoundrel." 



468 THE BED BAND. 

- " "Where is the wretch:" 

" I shall see to it that he gets his deserts by and b>l 
You need have no fears that he will escape the punishment 
he so richly deserves." 

" But where is Madame la Comtesse? Did they shut her 
up here, too?" 

" I do not know what has become of my poor aunt; but 
I shall soon find out, and when I do I shall avenge the in- 
jury that has been done our family, I assure you." 

Eenee remained silent. Though she knew her aunt's 
fate she could not utter a word. 

" The road is clear! There isn't a soul in sight!" cried 
Podensac, rushing into the room. " You had better leave 
immediately. Help us to carry mademoiselle out in the 
arm-chair," he added, turning to Pilevert. 

In the twinkling of an eye the chair was lifted and car- 
ried down the passage to the door. 

" By the way, have you heard the news?" asked the old 
gamekeeper as they walked along. 

Eoger shook his bead. 

" There is an armistice. The siege is ended, for we have 
surrendered." 

" Impossible!" cried Podensac. 

"The news is on all the bulletin boards, and one can 
leave the city by procuring a pass. I shouldn't be sorry to 
see the forest of Saint Germain again, upon my word!" 

Koger made no reply. 

They had reached the outside door and in another minute 
Eenee was safe in the carriage. Pilevert climbed upon the 
box beside the coachman, and Landreau and Ms master 
took seats inside. 

" Good-bye, lieutenant," said Podensac, as he closed the 
carriage door. " If an armistice has really been signed, 
I'd advise you to leave Paris no later than to-morrow." 



THE RED BAND. 469 



CHAPTER XXV. 

Nearly two mouths have elapsed since Roger de Saint 
Senier rescued Renee from the clutches of Dr. Molin- 
chard. 

It is the middle of March, and the mild and balmy air 
indicates the near approach of spring. The trees in the 
Park Monceau are covered with buds, and the birds salute 
the sun with their joyful songs. In short, reviving nature 
seems anxious to make Parisians forget the horrors of the 
siege. 

On a bench near the park gate leading to the outer boule- 
vard two men are sitting side by side; but the numerous 
signs of the return of the season of flowers seem to exert no 
influence over them, for they are talking seriously, even 
gloomily, and without paying any heed to what is going on 
around them. 

" So you insist upon beginning the campaign this very 
day?" remarked the elder of the two men. 

" I must, my dear major, for I have only three or four 
days at my disposal, as I must return to Burgundy as soon 
as possible.-" 

" Oh, yes, I can well understand your anxiety to rejoin 
the charming cousin who is soon to become your wife/' re- 
marked Podensac. 

Roger shook his head sadly. 

" My marriage is decided, but Heaven only knows when 
it will take place," he said gloomily. 

It was not mere chance that had brought the two friends 
together after a six weeks' separation. 

Saint Senier, who had arrived in Paris the evening before, 
had only taken time to secure rooms at a hotel before writ- 
ing to Podensac to request him to spend the next morning 



470 THE KED BAND. 

with him, and the major had promptly obeyed the sum- 
mons for several reasons. 

In the first place he had had nothing to do since the 
armistice. The Enf ants Perdus of the Rue Maubuee had 
disbanded, and their leader found himself out of business, 
to his very great chagrin, for his financial condition was not 
brilliant. In the second place, he had been in close cor- 
respondence with Roger ever since the latter's departure 
from the city, and he was anxious to keep up an acquaint- 
ance that might be of great service to him in days to come. 

The ex-lieutenant — for Saint Senier too had returned to 
private life — had received him very cordially, and had 
asked his immediate assistance in an important matter. 

" I will explain as we go along," Roger had remarked, 
and Podensac followed him without asking any questions. 

They had walked in the direction of the Park Monceau, 
and the conversation had begun upon the bench on which 
they were still seated. 

' ' Let us come to a full understanding before we engage 
in this affair," remarked Podensac. " It isn'tva duel with 
that brute of a Molin chard you want, I supposed 5 

"No — he is beneath my notice — but a duel with some 
one else, perhaps, though I wish first to clear up a mystery 
that troubles me more than anything else. " 

"Yes, Madame de Muire's mysterious disappearance; 
but I hardly think you will get at the facts of that without 
the assistance of the police, and it is doubtful if they would 
take the matter up at this late day. I am sorry that you 
have waited so long." 

" It was only three days ago that I learned anything 
definite, so you see I have lost no time." 

" "What! couldn't Mademoiselle de Saint Senier tell 
you—" 

" You saw her condition when we took her from the den 
in which that wretch had incarcerated her. I succeeded, as 
you know, in getting out of the city two days afterward 



THE liiiD UAJS1JJ. 471 

with her, but when she reached the chateau I had very little 
hope of her life, and fifty terrible days passed before she 
could be considered out of danger. " 

" And of course it was not until convalescence was es- 
tablished that she could tell you — " 

" The history of her unfortunate aunt who was en- 
trapped like herself, and who perhaps became a victim to 
this man's villainy.-" 

"I am of the opinion that Madame de Muire is still 
alive. Molinchard is a scoundrel, but he is a coward as 
well, and I really do not believe that he would dare to 
commit a murder. " 

" Heaven grant that you are right, but if he deceived 
Eenee when he told her that her aunt was dead, he must 
tell us what he has done with her. " 

" Oh! we'll find a way to make him do that, never fear. 
But I have never told you what occurred after your de- 
parture. Scarcely twenty minutes had elapsed before the 
Ponisse returned in a furious passion, for nobody at the 
station-house would pay the slightest attention to her. 
When she found that you had all gone she was ready to 
tear my eyes out, but I gave her to understand she had 
better not tamper with me. " 

'•' How about Molinchard?" 

" I expected he would make a scene when I opened the 
door of his cell, but he had become as meek as a lamb, and 
didn't ask me for a word of explanation." 

" Nor gave you any, I presume?" 

" While I was taking him to task for his conduct Val- 
noir's sweetheart returned, in company with Taupier — the 
hunchback you met at Saint Germain." 

" Or, in other words, the assassin," muttered Boger. 

" Possibly; he is certainly capable of it," said Podensac, 
though he knew nothing about the discarded bullet. 
"This much is certain : the two took Molinchard into his 
office, where a stormy scene ensued. I don't know what 



472 THE BED BAND. 

they said to him, but I am satisfied that the entire editorial 
staff of the ' Serpenteau ' were implicated in the abduction 
of those poor ladies/' 

" And so am I," said the lieutenant, " and I fully in- 
tend to have a settlement with them by and by. " 

" I'll assist you, if you wish, with the greatest pleasure. 
But to make a long story short, when I saw how things 
were going I took my trunk and left without so much as 
saying good-day to that cur of a Molinchard. " 

" And since?" 

" Since then I've been spending my time in getting well 
in a more respectable establishment at Passy, where I re- 
gained the use of both my arms, which are now very much 
at your service." 

" Thanks, major," said Roger; " I accept your offer, and 
you can count upon my eternal gratitude and friendship." 

" What you say rejoices my heart," exclaimed Podensac, 
" for I am tired of associating with a set of scoundrels that 
are not fit for even a decent Prussian to wipe his feet on, 
and even if I haven't always acted exactly as I ought, it is 
not too late for me to reform. " 

" I don't know what cause you have to reproach yourself 
in the past, major, and I don't care to know, but I shall 
never forget whab you did for me at Bezons." 

" Oh! that was a mere trifle — a debt I owed to the pretty 
little deaf and dumb girl who told my fortune at Eueil 
some time before. By the way, what lias become of her. 
You wrote me that you had taken her away with you, in 
company with the brave fellow who helped us burst open 
Molinchard's door. I am sure she must have nursed Made- 
moiselle de Saint Senier splendidly. A nice girl she is, un- 
quesitonably. And only to think that I was fool enough 
to think her in love with that odious Taupier. " 

" She did, indeed, nurse my cousin with unwearying 
devotion," said Roger, sadly, " but she has just left us 
again." 



THE RED BAND. 473 

" Impossible!" 

" Yes, on the very day that there was a decided change 
for the better in Kenee's condition, Eegina mysteriously 
disappeared. " 

" And how about the acrobat?" 

" Oh, he asked permission to leave at the end of the first 
weefc. I think he was pining to return to his old business." 

" And the girl has probably rejoined him," said Poden- 
sac, philosophically. " But Mademoiselle de Saint Senier 
is not alone, I suppose?" 

" No, certainly not, for in addition to our old servants 
and our worthy Landreau she has her — one of our relatives 
to watch over her. But it seems to me that we had better 
be starting for Montmartre. " 

" It is quarter of nine," said the major, glancing at his 
watch. " By half past nine we shall be at the heights, and 
catch Molinchard just as he is getting out of bed. " 

The two friends started up the outer boulevard, which, 
strange to say, they found well-nigh deserted. At that 
hour of the day this thoroughfare is usually crowded with 
laborers and artisans, but our friends saw only a few mem- 
bers of the National Guard hastening in the direction of 
Montmartre. 

On reaching the Place Olichy they found a detachment 
of regulars drawn up around the base of Marshal Moncey's 
statue, but did not feel sufficient curiosity to inquire the 
cause of this. 

They had reached the head-quarters of the political club 
of which Taupier was president, when they perceived a 
large crowd in and about the Place Pigalle, and saw bayon- 
ets glittering in the sunlight, and heard the confused mur- 
mur of an excited throng. 

" What the devil is going on down there?" muttered 
Podensac. " Are the Prussians coming back, or — " 

He had not completed the sentence when a quick dis- 
charge of musketry interrupted him. 



4'M THE RED BAND. 

It was not the simultaneous fire of a squad, but rather 
resembled the desultory firing of sharpshooters. In any 
case it was not intended as a mere salute, for two or three 
bullets whistled through the air above the heads of the two 
friends. Eoger paid very little attention to it, but Poden- 
sac was greatly astonished. 

" They must all have gone mad in this satanic neighbor- 
hood," he muttered. " They seem to be planning another 
revolution. " 

"Let us go on," remarked Saint Senier. " We shall 
soon find out what the matter is." 

But the two friends had not gone twenty yards when 
they encountered a hurrying throng made up principally 
of women and children. They were fleeing in such hot 
haste that they nearly knocked Podensac down. He tried 
to stop one respectable-looking bourgeois who was rushing 
along with all his might, and ask an explanation, but the 
old gentleman slipj)ed from his grasp, and hastened on, 
uttering only a few incoherent words. 

" There's no such thing as getting any satisfaction out 
of them," muttered the major, trying to stem the impet- 
uous tide, but though Eoger assisted him to the best of his 
ability, their progress was very slow. 

As they noared the square the tumult seemed to in- 
crease, but the firing had stopped, and they heard exclama- 
tions whose significance they did not clearly understand. 

" They are crying Vive something/' said the lieutenant, 
" but what I do not understand." 

They had just passed the Rue Lepic when they met a 
party of ragamuffins howling: 

"We are betrayed! To arms! They are slaughtering 
our brothers." 

" Oh, ho! I begin to understand," said Podensac, who 
had witnessed the revolution of February, 1848. 

" Look," said Eoger, pressing his friend's arm. 

A squad of gendarmes was coming up the street on the 



THE RED BAND. 475 

double-quick, and though the crowd opened to let them 
pass, it saluted them with hostile cries. 

Saint Senier approached their leader to ask him the 
meaning of all this, but after he glanced at his face he 
dared not question him. He was an old gray-haired lieu- 
tenant, but Roger saw a big tear roll down his wrinkled cheek. 

" There's going to be trouble, I'm afraid/' said the 
former leader of the Enfants Perdus, "and I bet that 
those scamps that edit the ' Serpenteau ' are at the bottom 
of it." 

"Let us go on," replied Saint Senier, whose thoughts 
were much more engrossed with Molinchard than with any 
possible revolution. 

By pushing and being pushed, the two friends finally 
reached the square, and just as they reached it the few re- 
maining soldiers retreated into the adjoining streets, leav- 
ing the victorious populace in full possession. 

The wildest disorder prevailed. Fierce yells and shouts 
resounded on every side. Some were singing the Marseil- 
laise, others were dancing, some were running aimlessly to 
and fro. 

" This begins to look serious," said Podensac, pointing 
to a pool of blood on the pavement A little further on, a 
crowd had collected around the door of a shop into which 
the wounded man had been carried. 

The major joined the group, and was obliged to ask only 
a few questions to learn the cause of the disturbance. 

The conspirators who had not hesitated to plan an insur- 
rection while the enemy was still at the gates of Paris — the 
conspirators who had been speculating upon the misfortunes 
of their country for six months, had. at last accomplished 
their object. 

The first day of the Commune had dawned. 

"I suspected as much," said Podensac, when he had 
learned the facts of the case; "and I think the wisest 
course for us to pursue is to retreat in good order to Paris ? 



476 THE RED BAND. 

and postpone our visit until to-morrow. A trip to the 
heights seems to be rather dangerous to all but those who 
wear blouses just at the present time." 

" I will go alone then/' said Saiut Senier, dryly. 

The major colored slightly, then hastened to say: 

" I thought you knew me better, my dear comrade. If 
you really wish to go to-day I will accompany you, of 
course. "What I said was rather on your account than my 
own, for I've an idea that I sha'n't run much risk." 

Eoger pressed his hand in silent gratitude. 

"Let me go ahead," continued Podensac. "I know 
the shortest way, and I hope we shall get along without 
any serious trouble." 

Their progress was arrested at almost every step, but 
they finally succeeded in getting out of the square and 
into a street leading directly to Montmartre. Here the 
crowd was much less dense, but it was necessary to make 
way for an armed band that swept down, the street like an 
avalanche. 

It was a band of the so-called " Beds," who were drag- 
ging along in triumph a dozen or more disreputable-look- 
ing deserters from the regular army. 

" A fine conquest they have made!" growled Podensac, 
scanning the frightened and bewildered countenances of 
the poor soldiers, who looked much more like prisoners 
than valiant patriots. 

The living wave passed by, and the two friends continued 
their climb, and finally succeeded in reaching without much 
difficulty a broad street, at the further end of which they 
could dimly discern the mayor's office of Montmartre. 
But they had scarcely set foot in this street before they 
found themselves swept along by another resistless torrent 
of human beings; but the crowd that filled the square 
through which they had just passed was peaceable in com- 
parison with this hooting and yelling rabble that had ap- 
propriated several pieces of artillery. 



THE ilED BAND. 477 

The major began to regret that he had chosen this route, 
and attempted to beat a retreat, but once in the rushing 
tide, there was no way of escaping from it, and the two 
friends were obliged to allow themselves to be swept swiftly 
on, and it was not until they reached the foot of the hill 
that they even had a chance to breathe. 

The steep ascent checked the progress of the guns, and 
the crowd paused as if awaiting reinforcements. 

Podensac succeeded in forcing his way to the edge of the 
crowd. 

" I think we shall succeed in getting out of this 
scrape," he remarked to Roger, who had followed him 
closely, " for I know a path that passes the mill and that 
will take us to Molinchard's house by making a slight de- 
tour. " In fact, he maneuvered so cleverly that in less than 
ten minutes he and Saint Senier succeeded in reaching a 
vacant lot that overlooked the esplanade of a battery con- 
structed during the siege. 

This esplanade seemed to be deserted, and they crossed 
it without meeting any one, but on reaching the road that 
skirted the embankment, they found themselves in the 
midst of a group composed of armed National Guards. 

These men, who were all hard-looking customers, 
seemed to have been stationed there to arrest any passer- 
by, for they instantly proceeded to collar the new-comers. 

" Where are you going, citizens?" they asked, in 
chorus. 

" To Dr. Molinchard's hospital," replied Podensac, 
promptly. 

" Molinchard? We know nothing about any such per- 
son," replied the band in unison. 

And the man who appeared to be the leader, added in 
anything but reassuring tones: 

" Follow us into the presence of the committee." 

" We know nothing about any committee," retorted the 
major. 

" &-2d half. 



478 THE RED BAND. 

" So you want to be insolent, do you!" cried the leader. 
" Here, you fellows, seize these men." 

" You must be mad!" exclaimed Podensac, in a tower- 
ing rage. 

" By what authority do you arrest me?" asked Eoger, 
disdainfully. 

" You will find out when you're brought before the 
committee," replied the leader of the band. 

During this brief but stormy conversation, his followers 
surrounded the two friends, who found themselves also 
flanked by six National Guards, before they could make the 
slightest movement. 

" I told you so," whispered the major. 

Eoger, whose anger was now thoroughly aroused, involun- 
tarily felt for the saber he had been wearing for the past 
six months, but suddenly recollected that he was unarmed. 
At the same instant, Podensac gave him a warning nudge 
with his elbow, and he restrained himself, less from a fear 
of the hostile bayonets around him, than a well-bred man's 
natural aversion to a pugilistic encounter. 

" Forward!" cried the grotesque personage in command. 

He looked utterly unlike his soldiers, for while they all 
appeared exactly what they were — roughs of the very lowest 
type, he affected the costume and manners of the famous 
Fra Diavolo. 

He was a tall young man, absurdly thin, and the 
possessor of an immensely long mustache, and a goatee as 
pointed as a needle. He wore a short red mantle, and a 
broad-brimmed felt hat, adorned with a long ostrich 
plume. 

As Eoger and Podensac, pale but defiant, were hurried 
on by their disreputable-looking escort, a yelling, whooping 
crowd gathered around them, lavishing such choice epithets 
as spies and murderers upon them, and clamoring for their 
blood. 

This crowd, of course, greatly retarded their progress. 



THE BED- BAND. 479 

and it took them at least twenty minutes to reach the 
square in front of the church. 

Here, Fra Diavolo, who was still in command, ordered his 
men to tarn to the left, and subsequently to the right. 

Saint Senier had never been in Montmartre, except on 
the day of his visit to Molinchard's establishment, so he 
had no idea where they were taking him, and gazed around 
him with astonishment when he found himself in a narrow 
street, inclosed on either side by high walls, and paved with 
irregular, pointed stones. Had it not been for the crowd 
and the confusion that pervaded the spot, one would have 
supposed one's self in a country town, a hundred leagues 
from Paris. 

At the first corner they came to, they encountered a 
ragged sentinel who demanded the password, which was 
promptly given. 

Podensac had not expected to find any well-organized 
system of surveillance on the heights, and he began to 
think that matters were looking pretty serious; while Saint 
Senier, who was much less conversant with the spirit of the 
populace than his friend, still regarded his arrest merely as 
an unfortunate contretemps. 

The prisoners were promptly xishered into a narrow 
court-yard, and thence into a garden, where a singular 
sight presented itself. The place was filled with com- 
munists, arrayed in uniforms of every sort and kind. 
They were pacing to and fro, or standing in groups, but 
their muskets were stacked along the wall. 

They greeted the new-comers with shouts of derisive 
laughter, but without any signs of astonishment, so it was 
only reasonable to suppose that other prisoners had been 
brought in to what seemed to be the head-quarters of this 
dangerous revolt. 

Overlooking this neglected garden, was a two-story house 
from which issued a confused murmur of excited voices. 
" Well," said Podensac, trying to appear much more in- 



480 THE llED BAND, 

different than he really was, " are we going to see this 
famous committee, at last?" 

" In a moment, citizen," replied the wearer of the red 
mantle, gravely. " The committee is in session now, and 
as soon as the trial on hand is concluded you will be ad- 
mitted. " 

""Ah! so they are trying some one now!" exclaimed 
Podensac. " Whom, may I ask?" 

" The enemies of the people," replied the man, who 
spoke with a strong southern accent. 

" The deuce! I didn't know that the people had so 
many enemies, nor had I any idea that we were in a court- 
house. The place looks more to me like a military encamp- 
ment, " he added, pointing to the soldiers and their guns. 

" That is the execution squad/' answered the man, look- 
ing Podensac full in the face. 

"Oh! everything is perfectly organized, I see," re- 
marked the major, whose courage always rose in the pres- 
ence of immediate and visible danger. 

His coolness seemed to make some impression upon the 
communist. 

" The people are .just, citizen," he remarked, in milder 
tones; " and if you are not an enemy you have nothing to 
fear." 

" I hope not, indeed," muttered Podensac. 

" You can step inside now, citizens," cried the man in 
the plumed hat, pointing to the door of the house which 
had just been opened. 

Two communists, muskets in hand, had appeared in the 
open door-way. 

" Whose turn is it?" cried one of them, a big ragged 
fellow who seemed to be considerably under the influence 
of liquor. 

" Ours," responded Podensac, promptly. 

" Then make haste. The committee don't like to be 
kept waiting." 



THE RED BAND. 4S1 

' Nor do I," responded the major. 
And, turning to his companion in misfortune, he added 
in subdued tones: 

" Let me do the talking when they question us. I have 
an idea that I car. get out of the scrape, and get you out 
too. " 

Eoger nodded an assent, and the two friends crossed the 
threshold arm in arm, followed by the wearer of the 
plumed hat. 

" Where are we to go?" asked Podensac, seeing two or 
three closed doors before him. 

The answer was prompt, though it did not come from 
his guards. One of the doors opened, and a man stepped 
out and cried in a solemn tone that would have done honor 
to the bailiff of a court of assizes: 
" Bring in the accused." 

" We are the accused, I suppose," said Podensac. " Let 
us take a look at this famous tribunal. " 

And he stepped inside, closely followed by Eoger, who 
seemed to be but little impressed by this show of author- 
ity. 

The apartment in which they found themselves was long 
and narrow, and but dimly lighted by a single window that 
overlooked the garden through which they had just passed. 
Several armed men were leaning against the walls, but 
the council charged with announcing the decrees of the 
people consisted of five or six persons who were seated be- 
hind a table, in front of the window. 

As they sat with their backs to the light, it was impossi- 
ble to distinguish their faces or their costume very distinct- 
ly, but Eoger perceived that all, or nearly all of them, wore 
the kepi of the National Guard. 

A vacant space had been reserved between the tribunal 
and the motley crowd that filled the other end of the 
room. 
The man with the plumed hat, who seemed to be per- 



482 THE RED BAND. 

fectly at home, pushed the two friends into this vacant 
space, and stepping forward, saluted the council respect- 
fully. 

"Let us hear your report, citizen," said the presiding 
officer, whose voice instantly attracted Podensac's atten- 
tion. 

" Citizens," replied tins modern Fra Diavolo, " I, with 
my men, was guarding the road below the battery on 
Windmill Hill, when we saw these two men crossing the 
esplanade with the apparent intention of examining the 
ground." 

'"' That is false!" interrupted Podensac. 

"' Silence, prisoners!" cried the same shrill voice that 
had struck the major before. 

" I had received orders to arrest all suspicious persons, 
so I seized these men without paying any attention to their 
protests and excuses, and had them brought here." 

"■ You did exactly right, citizen, and you can now return 
to your post of duty." 

This summary way of hearing and dismissing witnesses 
augured ill for the impartiality with which the j)i*oceedings 
of this tribunal wore conducted, and Podensac began to 
prepare himself for the examination that would undoubted- 
ly follow, though Saint Senier was still inclined to regard 
the whole thing as a farce. 

" Approach, you fellows!" cried the presiding officer, 
coarsely. 

For several minutes this singular magistrate had been 
moving uneasily about in his chair, unmindful of his dignity 
as a presiding officer, and he now leaned eagerly forward, 
placing his hand over his eyes to serve as a sort of screen. 

He was evidently trying to get a good look at the feat- 
ures of the prisoners who had just been brought before 
him. 

Podensac, whose curiosity had also been aroused, obeyed 
the order very willingly, for he too was anxious to get a 



THE KED BAND. 483 

good look at the person who addressed him in this per- 
emptory fashion, but in this mutual scrutiny the major 
had the worst of it,, for the light was shining full in his 
eyes, while his adversary was sitting with his back to the 
window. 

" What is your name?" brusquely inquired the presiding 
officer, who did not seem to have recognized the prisoner, 
in spite of his efforts. 

" Podensac. Is there no resident of the Rue Maubuee 
present?" 

On hearing this name, and this question, the official gave 
a violent start. 

It was the only manifestation of surprise that he gave, 
however. 

"'And what is your name?" he asked, turning to 
Roger. 

" I do not recognize your right to question me," replied 
the lieutenant; " but I have no objection to telling you 
that my name is Saint Senier, and that I was formerly an 
officer in the Guard Mobile. " 

On receiving this response, the presiding officer moved 
about more uneasily than ever. 

Podensac nudged his friend to prevent him from making 
this imprudent admission, but he was too late, so he hastily 
interposed to prevent any further imprudence on his com- 
panion's part, for it was certainly very imprudent to de- 
clare one's self a member of the Guard Mobile before the 
communists of Montmartre. 

But before he gave a free rein to his eloquence, he was 
anxious to get a good look at his judges, so stepping close 
enough to the table to touch it, he exclaimed: 

" '.Now, I think this joke has been carried far enough. 
I am just as good a citizen as you are, and I hope — " 

Here, to the intense astonishment- of Saint Senier, he 
paused, and bursting into a hearty fit of laughter, ex- 
claimed : 



484 THE RED BAND. 

" Well, well! this is rich! How are you, Taupier?" 

And he held out his hand to the presiding officer with 
the evident expectation of seeing it cordially accepted. 
But the incorruptible magistrate drew back with a dignified 
movement, and accompanied his refusal to fraternize with 
this severe remark : 

" I have no personal friends when I am presiding over 
the meetings of the committee. 

" This is a little too much!" exclaimed Podensac, really 
amazed by this display of impudence. 

Had he had a little more time for reflection, however, 
he would have been less surprised, for the hunchback — it 
was really he whom the revolt had lifted to this pinnacle of 
human greatness — bad long entertained feelings of a de- 
cidedly unfriendly nature toward the major. Their last 
meeting had occurred on the day when Eenee de Saint 
Senier was so miraculously rescued from Molinchard's 
clutches, aud ever since that time Taupier had disliked 
and distrusted Podensac. 

His hatred was not sufficiently intense, perhaps, to in- 
duce him to make any attempt to suppress the major ac- 
cording to his favorite method, but as chance had delivered 
him into his hands, he was not uninclined to take advan- 
tage of this opportunity to close his lips forever. 

Moreover, the name and the presence of Saint Senier had 
a powerful effect upon the vindictive hunchback, who flat- 
tered himself that the hour of his vengeance had come at 
last. 

"Citizens," he said, raising his voice, so as to be dis- 
tinctly heard by the entire audience, " here are two men 
who were discovered prowling around the guns that the 
aristocrats have tried to take from you.-" 

" That is false!" interrupted the incorrigible major. 

'' I will proceed to examine them," continued the hunch- 
back, without appearing to notice the interruption, "and 
the committee can then render its verdict " 



THE RED BAND. 485 

'' Yes, yes!" cried the spectators. 

Just as the excitement created by the agreeable announce- 
ment was at its height, the door opened softly and a man 
stole into the room. 

The new-comer seemed anxious to conceal himself in the 
crowd, but his lofty stature made this attempt an impossi- 
bility, for he was at least a head taller than any of the Na- 
tional Guards and Zouaves of whom the audience was main- 
ly composed. 

He wore the kepi with which the insurgents never will- 
ingly dispensed, and this war-like head-gear, poised awk- 
wardly upon his long, thin hair, gave him a very odd ap- 
pearance. 

His costume, too, was startling in the extreme, being a 
compound of the civil and the military: a sky-blue cravat 
with floating ends, a maroon jacket faced with red, and blue 
trousers with yellow side-stripes made up his attire. 

No parrot was ever arrayed in brighter plumage. 

In any other place the entrance of such a singular-look- 
ing person would have created a sensation, but the most 
accentric costumes prevailed in this assembly, and no one 
turned to look at the new-comer. 

Podensac, whose faculties were on the alert, in spite of 
the danger of his situation, was the only person that noticed 
bis entrance, and it soon seemed to him that the peculiar 
face was not unfamiliar to him, and he tried to think when 
and where he had seen it before. 

" Prisoner, what was your business on the heights?" cried 
laupier, addressing Saint Senier this time. 

Eoger hesitated an instant before he replied. 

He scorned to vindicate himself to such creatures, but he 
reflected that it was probably the only way by which he 
aould regain his liberty, and that he had a sacred duty to 
perform that day. 

" I was going to call on some one who resides in this 
neighborhood," he replied, curtly. 



486 THE BED BAND. 



" Indeed!" responded the hunchback, ironically. " You 
choose a strange time to do your visiting. " 

This joke pleased the audience, and approving laughter 
was heard on every side. 

" And what is the name of the person you proposed to 
visit?" he continued, in the same arrogant tone. 

Podensac was about to give the name of one of the En- 
fants Perdus who resided at Montmartre, for he perceived 
the danger; but Saint Senier, who was beginning to lose his 
temper, prevented him by saying : 

" The person's name is Molinchard, and he has a hospi- 
tal near here. You must be aware of the fact, for he is a 
friend of yours, I believe," added the imprudent young 
man, dryly. 

This confession decided his fate. The hunchback could 
no longer doubt the object of the lieutenant's intended visit 
to the doctor's house, and the opportunity to get rid of 
such a dangerous enemy was too tempting. 

'" Doctor Molinchard is a patriotic citizen," he said, with 
perfidious sweetness; " and if he would vouch for a man, 
the committee would not hesitate to release him, no mat- 
ter how strongly he might be suspected. We will send for 
him, and see if — ' ' 

" It would be useless," interrupted Saint Senier. " He 
has never even seen me. ' ' 

Podensac was in despair. 

" You hear what he says, citizens!" cried the hunch- 
back, with a tragical air. "It is evident that he is trying 
to deceive the people." 

" Yes, yes! he is an aristocrat. There is no doubt of it," 
cried one. 

" And a spy in disguise!" added another. 

" Shoot him!" 

Exclamations like these resounded from every part of the 
hall, and the major concluded that it was quite time for 
him to interfere. 



THE BED BAND. 487 

" Look here, my friends/' he cried, " just do me the 
favor to listen to me a moment. I'm no aristocrat, as 
everybody knows, and I certainly didn't command the En- 
fants Perdus of the Eue Maubuee during the entire siege to 
play the part of a spy afterward, and a spy upon French- 
men, at that!" 

This little speech, delivered in firm, resolute tones, 
seemed to make a favorable impression on the crowd; but 
the hunchback had too much at stake not to make a stren- 
uous effort to check this growing friendliness on the part 
of the audience. 

' ' Ask even friend Taupier, who pretends not to know 
me — ask him if I am a spy?" continued Podensac. 

" I don't say that you are, citizen," replied that official, 
rather taken aback by this straightforward appeal; " but 
you have some very undesirable acquaintances — " 

" I will vouch for the innocence of this acquaintance, at 
least," replied Podensac, promptly; " and if you will only 
allow two or three men and a corporal to accompany me to 
Molinchard's house, I will guarantee that he, too, will 
vouch for my friend, though he has never seen Mm. " 

Podensac felt that he was perfectly safe in promising 
this, for he had at his disposal certain arguments that could 
not fail to make an impression on Molinchard's troubled 
conscience. 

But Taupier mistrusted his intentions, and hastily re- 
plied : 

" The people have not time to wait. How do we know 
but the upholders of despotism are already returning in 
force to take from us the guns they tried so hard to turn 
over to the Prussians?" 

Almost as he spoke the roll of a drum was heard in the 
distance. 

" Even now the enemies of France are approaching!" he 
said, excitedly. 

These words, which had not been uttered aimlessly by 



488 THE RED BAND. 

any means, were the signal for a frightful tumult. The 
bravest of the audience rushed toward the door; the others 
iuvaded the vacant space in front of the table, and began 
to clamor for the death of the prisoners. The most violent 
even attempted to seize Podensac an"d Saint Senier, who 
managed to keep them at a respectful distance, however. It 
would be impossible for them to withstand such a large 
number of assailants long, however, and the two friends 
would certainly have been overpowered and dragged from 
the room, if something had not unexpectedly occurred to 
change the aspect of affairs. 

The long-haired individual who had modestly remained 
in the background up to the present time, now took a long 
stride that placed him in the center of the group assembled 
in front of the committee. 

" By virtue of my position as a member of the commit- 
tee I ask a hearing," he said, in drawling tones. 

"It is the clown we met in the forest of Saint Ger- 
main!" exclaimed Podensac. " I knew I had seen him 
somewhere before. " 

" It is that tall fellow who talks so well," murmured the 
faithful hali/ues of the club. 

Though greatly annoyed at the interruption, Taupier 
dared not refuse the request of such an influential colleague. 

" Speak, citizen," he said; " but be brief, for the people 
arc waiting.'"' 

"Citizens/'' began Alcindor, "what do you desire? 
That justice shall be done, and traitors punished, do you 
not?" 

" Yes, yes; shoot them! shoot them!" 

" I, too, desire it," continued the orator. " Like you, 
I feel sure that these men are emissaries of the legitimists, 
and as such deserve death." 

"Cur!" hissed Podensac. 

" That is true! Death to them! death to them!" yelled 
the crowd. 



THE 11ED BAND. 489 

C£ But, citizens, do you know what hostages are?" 

This question caused a confused murmur, which indicated 
that the assemblage did not have any very clear ideas on 
the subject. 

" Hostages/' continued Alcindor, " have served as a pro- 
tection against the cruelty of an enemy from the earliest 
antiquity. They are prisoners retained, meanwhile notify- 
ing the reactionists that they will be shot the very day their 
friends dare to lay violent hands on any member of our 
great and noble league." 

" That's not a bad idea!" shouted several voices. 

Taupier frowned darkly. 

" I believe the eventual triumph of the people is cer- 
tain," continued the orator, " but we may be obliged to 
wait, and who knows but one of us may fall into the hands 
of the supporters of tyranny?" 

"There's a good deal of truth in what he says!" ex- 
claimed one. 

" He's a sensible fellow, unquestionably," remarked an- 
other. 

" Who knows but at this very moment the government is 
preparing for an attack, and that by this evening, in an 
hour, perhaps, they will secure possession of Montmartre 
and seize the members of the committee you have chosen?" 

" Nonsense!" growled the hunchback. 

" The drum you heard just now is, perhaps, the signal 
for the attack. " 

Several communists, impressed by the justice of this ar- 
gument, started for the door. 

"Ah, well, citizens, in the event of such a calamity we 
should have two prisoners whose lives would insure the 
safety of such of our comrades as might be captured by the 
gendarmes." 

A murmur of approbation greeted this conclusion. 

" All this is absurd," shouted Taupier, anxious to see 
these two dangerous individuals safely disposed of then and 



490 THE EED BAHD. 

there. " Do you imagine that the monarchists set any 
great value on the lives of these two individuals? Not 
enough to prevent them from shooting you, if they catch 
you, I can tell you." 

" Pardon me, Citizen President, pardon me/' persisted 
Alcindor. " You forget that one of these men is, or has 
been, an officer in that Guard Mobile which has always been 
the mainstay of the government we have just overturned." 

" Another good reason for sending a bullet through his 
drains," said the hunchback, shrugging his shoulders. 

" Besides, he is of noble birth, one of the scions of the 
arrogant race that ground our fathers in the dust. His 
family is rich and powerful, and to secure his release they 
would release at least a dozen of our men. As for the other 
prisoner," continued the imperturbable Alcindor, " he is 
not a nonentity by any means, and — " 

" I should think not, indeed," interrupted Podensac. 
" If my friend is worth ten of your National Guards, I am 
certainly worth thirty, for he is only a lieutenant, while I'm 
a major. If you don't believe me, I'll show you my com- 
mission," he added, putting his hand in his pocket. 

" Oh, we don't want to see your papers," cried the in- 
furiated hunchback. 

" But you know mc, and the others don't," retorted Po- 
densac. 

Then, turning to the audience, he said, lightly: 

" You, of course, are not aware, citizens, that Taupior 
and I are old friends. One wouldn't imagine it, would 
one, seeing his anxiety to dispatch me to the other world." 

Taupier saw that his audience was turning against him, 
and the fact exasperated him beyond endurance. 

" Yes; I do know you," he cried, with a furious gesture. 
" I know you, and know that you acted as a spy for the 
Prussians. I caught you at it at Rueil." 

" At the establishment of Mouchabeuf — your own par- 
ticular friend — " 



THE RED BAND. . 491 

tk Citizens, you are wandering from the subject/' inter- 
posed Aleindor. 

Taupier saw that he had made a blunder, and instantly 
changed his tone. 

" Come, Citizen Panaris, let us look at the matter in a 
sensible light," he said more gently. "You advocate 
keeping these two traitors as hostages in order to exchange 
them in case of need; but if the reactionists should take 
the heights they will capture the prisoners at the same time 
they capture us, so do me the favor to explain what good it 
will do us to have them in our custody. " 

" That's true! That's a fact!" 

" Citizen President, I advocate keeping them, but not 
keeping them here." 

" But where, pray? Are we masters of the prisons? 
Have you the keys of the Eoquette in your pocket?" 

" We shall have them to-morrow." 

" That is very possible; but if the gendarmes should take 
the heights in the meantime we should be caught, and these 
two traitors will be released. " 

" Never! I know a place where nobody can find them; 
and I will take them there if some of these good citizens 
will accompany me. " 

" Yes, yes, we'll go with you!" cried the communists 
with remarkable unanimity. 

Taupier clinched his fists in impotent rage on seeing his 
prey thus escape him. Podensac was delighted, and Saint 
Senier too, felt that a respite meant deliverance. 

But the two friends shared the same ideas in relation to 
Aleindor. They both wondered if he really meant what he 
had said about keeping them as hostages, or if this was only 
a pretext for saving them. The major inclined to this last 
opinion, for he could not believe that Aleindor 's brief 
political career could have transformed him into a blood- 
thirsty monster. 

" I begin to believe that we shall get out of the scrape 



i-)2 THE RED UAXD. 

after all/' Podensac said to himself as he exchanged 
glances with his companion in misfortune. 

" The committee, however, must know where these pris- 
oners are to be taken," remarked the hunchback, " so I am 
obliged to ask Citizen Panaris to confide his plan to me. 

" Willingly, Citizen President; but lam going to confide 
it to you alone, for 1 don't want our hostages to know where 
I intend to take them. " 

Alcindor approached the table and bent over to whisper 
a few words in the hunchback's ear — no easy matter, by 
reason of the disparity in height. 

After a brief conversation Alcindor stepped back, and 
Taupier rose and solemnly gave orders for the removal of 
the prisoners. 

"I hope you're not going to blindfold us here," said 
Podensac. " I've no desire to break my neck on the steps." 
" No, no, citizen. It will be time enough when we get 
into the street," replied Alcindor, with a friendly air. 

" Forward, then!" cried the major, with as much spirit 
as if he were still at the head of his men. 

When Eoger and Podensac reached the garden they found 
everything changed. 

The crowd had increased to an alarming extent. A 
swarm of disreputable-looking men, clad in blouses, viragos 
in rags, and hardened gamins had invaded the place. The 
men were armed with guns, the women with sticks and 
clubs, and the children with stones. 

This was an army of the slums. The advent of the 
prisoners was greeted with savage yells, and the friends per- 
ceived that the greatest danger was still to be confronted. 

Their guard was trying to clear the way for them, and 
Alcindor was about to harangue the people when a window 
opened. 

" Citizens!" cried the shrill voice of Taupier, " make 
way for two spies that the committee is reserving for future 
punishment." 



THE BED BAND. 493 

The wretch had carefully calculated the effect of these 
ambiguous words. 

There was a howl of rage from the crowd. 

"No, no! Put them to death, here and now !" 

This blood-thirsty cry burst from a hundred throats, and 
the furious mob rushed upon the prisoners. 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

Duetng the gloomy days of the Commune, Saint Ger- 
main, which is by far the prettiest town in the environs of 
Paris, became the favorite refuge of those who desired to 
escape the tyranny of the Eeds. 

The life they led there, however, was not a gay one, for 
the terrible struggle that was going on in Paris was natur- 
ally a source of intense anxiety to these poor exiles. 

There was scarcely one who had not left a son, a brother, 
a relative or a dear friend at the mercy of the insurgents, 
or had some loved one in the army of Versailles which was 
fighting almost every day. 

How they crowded around the bulletin boards, and 
around the side wall of the church which had the privilege 
of bearing the official reports of the government. 

This spot naturally became the rendezvous of the 
refugees, and evenings when the air was warm and the 
foliage fresh, one might have supposed one's self at a fash- 
ionable watering-place. 

One Sunday about the middle of May, after a very warm 
day, there was not an unoccupied seat in front of the pavil- 
ion of Henry IV., and upon the broad band of turf that 
borders the park. Lorgnettes were leveled upon the hori- 
zon where the smoke of cannon was plainly visible; and 
everybody was talking of the effect of the formidable bat- 
tery at Montretoul which had made the walls of the old 
chateau tremble the night before. 

The crowd did not extend beyond the round point in 



494 THE BED BAND. 

front of the entrance of the forest, and beyond this grass- 
covered esplanade several little groups might have been seen 
leaning sadly over the massive stone balustrade. 

It was the retreat of the anxious and despondent — of 
those who wished to hold themselves aloof from the gay 
throng further down the terrace. 

On a rustic bench beneath the drooping branches of a 
giant elm sat Eenee de Saint Senier gazing sadly in the 
direction of Paris. 

She was dressed in mourning, and looked even paler 
than usual. An open book she had been trying to read was 
lying in her lap. Her face, once so sweet and gentle, now 
wore an expression of cold determination, and sorrow had 
left its impress upon each pure feature. 

The faithful Landreau was standing beside his mistress. 
He too had changed greatly. His hair was much whiter; 
the furrows in his cheeks had deepened, and his broad 
shoulders were bowed. He had shaved off his beard and 
substituted a black livery for his uniform. 

The old soldier had resumed his position of servant in the 
Saint Senier household; and one could read in his eyes that 
he was ready to defend the young girl as he had defended 
Lieutenant Eoger. 

" Mademoiselle," he ventured timidly, " the air is growing 
cool, and it would perhaps be well for you to return home.-" 

" No news yet, no news!" murmured Eenee, despond- 
ently. 

" Alas! no, mademoiselle," sighed Landreau. " I have 
just returned from the post-office, and I am sure that there 
is no letter for us there, for the clerks are beginning to 
know me, and as soon as they see me at the window they 
shake their heads to give me to understand that the mail 
has brought nothing for us." 

" Yet I have been waiting two long months," said the 
young girl bitterly. 

" But you must not worry like this, mademoiselle. You 



THE REI> HAND. 4!)0 

will certainly get sick again. I don't think it at all strange 
that we receive no letter. No mails have left Paris for 
more than three days remember. " 

Eem'e shook her head sadly; and poor Landreau dared 
not say any more. ' 

" If you wish it I will go to the city myself," he added, 
after a short silence. 

" You have incurred danger enough already my good 
friend/ ' replied the young girl, sadly. 

" If the danger had been all, I should have gone long ago 
without saying a word to you," exclaimed the worthy game- 
keeper, " but I dare not leave you anywhere in this accursed 
country except at the Chateau de Saint Senier; for if those 
villains should get as far as here who would you have to 
protect you?" 

Eenee made a gesture that said plainly enough that life 
was a burden to her. 

" Oh, do not despair, mademoiselle," murmured the old 
servant; " something tells me that Monsieur Eoger is alive, 
and that you will see him again; for. — " 

The sullen roar of cannon interrupted him. 

The batteries on Mont Valerien and Montretoul had both 
opened fire at the same time. 

" Do you hear that, mademoiselle? do you hear that?" 
exclaimed Landreau. " This certainly is the beginning of 
the end. " 

" God grant it!" murmured Eenee. 

" As soon as our troops enter the city you will surely 
allow me to go there," continued Landreau. " Then I 
shall not feel any anxiety about you, and I'll find my lieu- 
tenant, I promise you." 

" If Eoger were alive ho would certainly have written to 
me," said Eenee. " On the very evening of his arrival in 
Paris he wrote to me announcing the fact; and the long 
silence that has followed this letter can only be explained 
by some dire misfortune." 



496 THE RED BAND. 

" But perhaps the scoundrels have put him in prison as 
they did me. I can not believe that God would be so cruel 
as to take him from us." 

"Ah! God has indeed laid His hand heavily upon our 
little household," said the girl, gloomily. "My brother 
first, my more than mother next, and now — " 

' ' Better days are coming, mademoiselle. We shall not 
have to suffer much more, believe me. " 

" A fatality seems to pursue all who are in any way con- 
nected with us. Yes, all, even to the poor child who risked 
her own life to save Roger, and who has again disap- 
peared." 

" You need feel no anxiety about her, mademoiselle. 
She is as bright and shrewd as she is good, and if she has 
left us it is for some good purpose. I have an idea that 
she will return to ns one of these days; and who knows? 
she will perhaps bring us news of my lieutenant." 

" There is some mystery in Regina's life, I feel sure," 
remarked Renee, after a short silence. 

" I think so too/' replied Landreau, promptly; " and I 
am sure that Pilevert could have told us a good deal about 
her if he had chosen to." 

" He too has disappeared," said Renee, thoughtfully. 

" He's no great loss, I am sure. I've always thought 
that he must have stolen the child from her parents when 
she was an infant. " 

" The same idea has frequently occurred to me; but 
though I have questioned Regina more than once on the 
subject, I never could induce her to tell me the secret of 
her birth. Perhaps she does not know herself. " 

" And I have tried to make Pilevert talk, but never suc- 
ceeded in getting anything out of him. If I ever get hold 
of him again, though, he'll have to tell me all he knows." 

Renee rose, and crossing the terrace, leaned her elbow 
upon the parapet and gazed sadly toward the fair city 
which, after being spared by a foreign foe, seemed about to 



J UK lllib JiANl). I'.)? 

fall a victim to the wicked passions and rapacity of her own 
children. 

Landreau respected the grief of his young mistress too 
much to say any more, though in his secret heart the faith- 
ful old servant was much more anxious than he was willing 
to admit. 

He was aroused from his gloomy reflections by the sound 
of carriage wheels; and turning, he saw a shabby vehicle 
drawn by an old and bony horse approaching, but feeling 
no particular interest in the vehicle or its occupant, Land- 
reau paid no further attention to it until he saw it stop on 
the hill in front of him, and heard a voice cry out — 

" My friend, which road must I take to reach the Grand 
Vainqueur?" 

The voice made a much deeper impression on Landreau 
than the question, for he felt sure he had heard it before; 
so to satisfy his doubts he approached the carriage and 
found himself face to face with the driver, who had leaned 
out at the same time. 

"What! is it you?" 

" The old gamekeeper, as I live!" 

The two exclamations were uttered simultaneously. 

Pilevert and Landreau had recognized each other. 

" Where did you come from?" inquired the old game- 
keeper. 

" From Poissy, and — even further," replied the acrobat; 
" and very glad I am to find you here, for I was looking 
for you. ' ' 

" For me!" repeated Landreau in considerable surprise. 

" That is to say, I am looking fox the young lady — your 
mistress, I mean, of course. " 

" Don't speak so loud. She is standing over there. I'll 
go and tell her that you wish to see her." 

" It isn't worth while. Just hold Oocotte a minute and 
I'll go and speak to her myself. ' ' 

Landreau complied with the request, though it did not 



498 THE E"ED BAND. 

appear at all necessary, for the horse did not evince the 
slightest desire to move. 

Eenee was still leaning upon the balustrade absorbed in 
a gloomy reverie; and after smoothing his hair and whisk- 
ers Pilevert approached her, hat in hand, giving a slight 
cough to attract her attention. 

Mile, de Saint Senier turned and gazed at him with evi- 
dent astonishment. 

" Madame does not recognize me," stammered the acro- 
bat. " When I say madame, I mean mademoiselle." 

Eenee did not recognize him for two very excellent rea- 
sons. In the first place, she had scarcely seen him since 
the scene at Molinchard's house, and in the second place 
Pilevert had changed his style of dress and looked very 
much like a farmer now in his broad-brimmed hat, his long 
brown coat and nankeen trousers. 

' ' I am the man, you know, that went to Montmartre — 
with your cousin — the day he rescued you," he stammered. 

Eenee's face brightened. 

" I recognize you perfectly, now, sir," she said, offering 
him her hand; " and I have not forgotten the service you 
rendered me. " 

" Oh, that is not worth mentioning! How is Monsieur 
Roger?" 

The girl turned pale and was obliged to catch at the bal- 
ustrade for support, for Pilevert had unwittingly touched a 
grievous wound. 

" My cousin returned to Paris after you left us," she re- 
plied, with an evident effort, ' ' and I have not seen him since. " 

" Good heavens! it's* to be hoped that he hasn't fallen 
into the clutches of those ' Serpenteau ■'fellows!" exclaimed 
Pilevert. " Fd like to see them all hung, every one of 
them; and I believe they will be, for the Versailles troops 
have just entered Paris, and — " 

" Are you sure what you say is true," asked Eenee in 
great agitation. 



THE RED BAND. 499 

" A man I met just now in the forest told me so; and I 
have an idea that he knew, for he looked like a fleeing com- 
munist. And how is my little Regina? You left her at 
home, I suppose?" 

" Regina left us before my cousin did/' replied Re- 
nee. 

" Left you!" repeated Pilevert; " and without writing 
to tell me where she was going. Upon my word, that is 
really too bad; and I am just going to tell you the whole 
story. About fifteen months ago, immediately after my 
return from California, where I saved tip just enough to 
buy me a horse and wagon, I was making the tour of the 
southern fairs in company with that fool of an Alcindor, 
whom I had picked up in the streets of Toulouse. One 
evening while on the way from Bazas to Bordeaux I saw a 
girl sitting by the road-side crying. I got out and asked 
her what the matter was. She didn't answer me, but only 
motioned to me that she was dumb. I pointed to my 
wagon, as if to tell her that I would take her along the 
road a piece if she wanted to go, so she got in and we rode 
along. Pretty soon she took a slate out of her pocket and 
began to write a lot of things — how she was alone in the 
world; that she knew how to tell fortunes; and that if I 
wanted her to she would tell fortunes for me in my tent on 
condition that I would support her and never ask her any 
questions about her family. " 

" That was very strange," murmured Renee. 

" I thought so, too," answered Pilevert; " but I needed 
a girl just then very much to give a little variety to the en- 
tertainment, so I gladly accepted her offer; and a most ex- 
cellent bargain it proved, so far as I was concerned. Three 
days after she began to tell fortunes and play her tricks 
with cards the receipts at the door had doubled. And how 
pretty and intelligent and genteel she was!" 

" Did you ever find out anything about her relatives?" 
inquired Renee. 



500 THE ItED BANlX 

" I could never induce her to say a word about them. 
Whenever I attempted to question her on the subject she 
always snatched the pencil out of my hands and threatened 
to leave me then and there." 

" What! you traveled with this young girl for a year, and 
were unable to discover anything about her" past!" ex- 
claimed Mile, de Saint Senier. " You don't know where 
she came from or who she he" 

" I think I have had some idea since yesterday/' replied 
Pilevert with a great show of mystery. 

" Explain more clearly, if you please/' said Eenee rather 
dryly. 

Pilevert seemed in no haste to reply. Judging from his 
manner one would have supposed he regretted having said 
as much as he had. 

" Still you must recollect, mademoiselle, that when I say 
I think I know something about Eegina's history, it does 
not by any means follow that I do know it," he said at last 
with some hesitation. 

" But what grounds have you for this belief?" 
: " I have found some papers belonging to her." 

Eenee was so much surprised that she began to wonder 
if the acrobat had not lost his senses completely, for these 
incoherent replies gave her no definite information in regard 
to the subject that interested her so deeply. Besides, she 
felt greatly averse to continuing a conversation of this nat- 
ure in such a public place, especially as two or three senti- 
nels who were pacing to and fro seemed to regard the dilapi- 
dated vehicle and its owner with evident suspicion. 

" Sir," she said with great dignity, " if you have any 
further information to give me, I will listen to it this even- 
ing at my residence, No. 97 Eue de Noailles. " 

Pilevert stepped back with an awkward bow. 

" That would suit me much better," he stammered. 
" You see, Cocotte isn't Bradamante, though she is really 
a very fine animal; and when I have seen her eat her oats 



THE KKU n\m). 501 

in the stable at the Grand Vainqueur I cari tell you my 
story much better. I'll be at your house iu an hour." 

As he spoke he jumped into his wagon, whipped up his 
horse, and in another minute or two disappeared behind 
the trees. 

Landreau approached his mistress and was struck by the 
change in her expression, for the air of sadness had given 
place to one of singular animation. 

" Let us return home at once," she said quickly; and 
the old gamekeeper had sufficient tact to see that any com- 
ment or question would be decidedly unwelcome, so he fol- 
lowed his young* mistress home in silence. 

The Eue de Noailles is only a short distance from the 
park, and in a few moments they reached the cottage that 
Mile, de Saint Senier had rented. 

Landreau received orders to admit Pilevert as soon as he 
presented himself; and the acrobat had the good sense not 
to keep them waiting. 

The hour that he was to devote to his own supper and 
that of his steed had not elapsed when he rang at the door 
of the house on the Eue de Noailles. 

He entered with an air of secrecy that harmonized well 
with the long overcoat with three capes in which he was en- 
veloped. This soiled garment seemed to conceal something 
that the acrobat was holding tightly under his arm, and 
after a low obeisance he unbuttoned the coat, and drew out 
a long box, which he deposited upon Mile, de Saint Senier's 
work-table. 

" You will find Eegina's history there," he said without 
any preamble whatever. 

It was a box of some foreign wood bound with steel, and 
it was considerably decayed, either from the action of time 
or of dampness. 

The lock, too, was rusty. 

'•' Look inside and read what you find there,mademoiselle," 
Pilevert added, with an important air, as he opened the box. 



502 THE RED BAND. 

Under any other circumstances Mile, de Saint Senier 
would certainly have asked some further questions before 
proceeding to examine the contents of the casket; but the 
profound interest she felt in Eegina prevented anything like 
hesitation. 

She leaned over the open casket, and with a trembling 
hand drew out, first, a jjortrait. It was a miniature in an 
oval case. 

" Eegina!" exclaimed Eenee. . 

" Ah! you recognized it at the first glance/" cried Pile- 
vert, naively. " I never should have seen the resemblance 
if I hadn't read the papers first." 

The portrait was that of a little girl about eight years of 
age; and one must have studied Eegina's face carefully to 
be able to discern her features in this childish picture; and 
yet when one looked at it closely doubt was an impossibility. 

Above all, one could not mistake the eyes. 

" Eead! read! What you find there will astonish you!" 
said the acrobat pointing to the papers in the bottom of the 
box. 

Eegina drew one out and unfolded it with a trembling 
hand. 

It was a letter written on a large sheet of j>aper yellow 
with time. 

" Eegina, my dear daughter," read Eenee. " You are 
still a child; but I am sure you have not forgotten your 
father. The day I pressed you to my heart on the wharf 
at Bordeaux before going aboard the ship that was to take 
me to Mexico, I little thought that I should never see you 
again. 

" God has so decided, however. I have fallen into the 
hands of enemies of France. They have condemned me to 
death, and to-morrow morning I shall fall under their bul- 
lets, blessing you with my latest breath. 

" Your poor mother died in bringing you into the world; 



THE TIED BAND. 50" 

and you will consequently be obliged to fight the battle of 
life alone now, so I am obliged to speak to you as if you had 
already arrived at years of understanding. 

" The ladies to whose care I intrusted you before my de- 
parture were paid for your board and education for three 
years in advance. At the end of that time I trust they will 
secure you a position as governess in some honorable family 
if they can not keep you any longer in their school. 

" I had dreamed of a different fate for you; but the bad 
luck that seems to pursue our family is not yet exhausted. 
Your grandfather died a victim to the civil war that deso- 
lated our country several years before your birth. 

" I had a brother; and I hoped he would assist me in 
raising the fallen fortunes of our house; but political differ- 
ences have transformed him into my bitterest enemy; and 
if ever this unprincipled brother — his name is Charles- 
dares to assert any authority over you, reject with loathing 
£he guardianship and protection of one who has dishonored 
our name. 

" I do not altogether despair, however. One hope remains ; 
and my grounds for this hope are based entirely upon the 
document I inclose in this letter. 

" It is the will of Edmund du Luot, my most intimate 
friend, who, prior to his departure for California, insisted 
upon bequeathing his fortune to you. 

" Edmund used to play with you when you were a mere 
infant; and perhaps you can still recollect the long mus- 
tache that you used to pull so savagely. 

" Forgive me, my beloved daughter, for speaking of these 
matters when I have so short a time in which to tell you 
that your father loves you with his whole heart and that his 
last thought will be of you. 

"Farewell, Eegina, farewell! My heart is breaking at 
the thought of leaving you forever; and I have only strength 
to implore you to never forget your father, 

" George de Kolrval.-" 



0U4 THE 11ED BAND. 

Mile, de Saiut Senier dropped the letter in silence. She 
was too deeply moved to utter a word. Her eyes were fall 
of tears, and her lips quivered. 

"Goon! go on! There are other papers in the box," 
insisted the acrobat. 

Renee hesitated, but only for an instant; then she drew 
out first a certificate of the birth of Regina Louise Gabrielle 
de Noirval, and afterward the will of r '*a certain Count tie 
Luot, who made her his sole legatee. 

Mile, de Saint Senier felt a vague suspicion that some at- 
tempt had been made to rob the orphan of her inheritance; 
but she did not imagine for an instant that there could be 
any connection between this sad story and the misfortunes 
that had befallen her during the past year. 

All the names she had just read were strange to her. 

"Noirval!" she repeated thoughtfully. "I never met 
a person of that name." 

" Nor have I," growled Pilevert; "but Noirval sounds 
devilishly like Valnoir, it seems to me." 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

Os the following Tuesday Montmartre was agaiu the 
scene of many thrilling events. 

The mountain that had witnessed the birth of the insur- 
rection had become its last stronghold. 

It was eleven o'clock in the morning, and ever since early 
dawn the Versailles troops had been gradually closing in 
around the retreat of the insurgents, carrying one after 
another the formidable barricades that protected every ap- 
proach to Montmartre. 

A lively fusillade was in progress on the outer boulevard, 
the fighting being particularly fierce around the Place 
Blanche and the Place Pigalle, but the frenzied defenders 
of the Commune still held out behind their breastworks of 
paving-stones. 



THE KKD BAND. 505 

The shameless red Hag still floated, too, over Dr. Molin- 
chard's hospital where the insurgents had established their 
head-quarters. 

The place was well chosen for a desperate resistance. 
Protected by the escarpments that cut the hill on every 
side, and surrounded by artillery that launched its bombs, 
at hazard, upon the public buildings and museums, the 
villa on the heights seemed well-nigh impregnable. 

It had undergone an entire change of aspect since the 
18th of March. The sick and wounded had vacated it; the 
hospital had been transformed into barracks, and the main 
court-yard had become an arsenal. As for Dr. Molin- 
chard, he devoted his days to amputations, and his nights 
to guarding his prisoners — for he had prisoners — and his 
duties as a jailer were eveii more arduous than as a sur- 
geon. 

Mother Ponisse had very naturally resumed the business 
of cantiniere, and the communists drank so heavily that 
she was in a fair way to make a fortune. On that par- 
ticular day, however, the virago and her employer were 
scarcely equal to the duties that devolved upon them, so 
great was the crowd of intoxicated and wounded men that 
flocked to the villa on the heights, so they troubled them- 
selves very little about what was going on inside the villa, 
all the gates being carefully guarded. 

Iu the most retired corner of the desolate garden in 
which Eenee had suffered so much, Eoger de Saint Senier 
and Podensac stood listening to the cannonade. 

" The fire seems to be slackening," remarked the former 
commander of the Enfants Perdus. 

" A bad sign," said Eoger, shaking his head sadly. 

"That depends, " retorted Podensac, quickly. "They 
always cease firing, you know, when they are about to 
charge with the bayonet.' 5 

" But in that case, we should hear them sounding the 
charge." 



50G THE BED BAND. 

" That's by no means certain. The wind isn't the right 
way." 

" Listen! there is firing in the direction of La Ohapelle. 
The troops must be retreating. " 

" On the contrary, I think they are making a circuitous 
movement," replied the major, who was something of a 
strategist. " Probably they are going around so as to at- 
tack Montmartre in the rear." 

" But the day they brought us here, the north side of the 
mountain seemed to be as well protected with guns as the 
side overlooking Paris. " 

" Zounds!'" exclaimed Podensac, whose anger was always 
aroused to the highest pitch by any allusion to his arrest, 
" just to think that but for that fool of a clown, we should 
probably have been taken to the prison of Cherche Midi, 
and been free by this time. " 

" On the contrary, I think we should have been shot, 
but for him," replied Saint Senier. 

" And who knows but we shall be shot now?" growled 
the major. "I'll settle with him, if I ever get hold of 
him," he added, clinching his fist. 

" I am ready to die," murmured Roger, " but I should 
like to have a weapon to defend myself. " 

"And so would I! And we have nothing, not even so 
much as a stick or a stone!" 

" Listen!" exclaimed Saint Senier, seizing his friend's 
arm. 

This time there could be no mistake. The shrill notes 
of the bugle were resounding in the distance, and the firing 
began again, fast and furious. 

" It's the assault. They're advancing on the double- 
quick!" 

" Live the regulars!" 

These transports of joy were interrupted by excited cries 
and hurried footsteps inside the house. 

" They are coming to release us!" cried Roger. 



THE KED liASD. 507 

' Say rather to murder us!" muttered Podensac. 

The two friends walked together to the door of the little 
drawing-room, and stood there, pale, but resolute, pre- 
pared to meet their fate courageously. 

It was the livid face of Molinchard that first appeared, 
but behind him were five or six communists with disheveled 
iiair, faces black with powder and clothing in tatters. 

They had guns in their hands, and they were all shout- 
ing and yelling at the top of their voices, though it was im- 
possible to distinguish anything but frightful oaths. 

" What do you want?" demanded Podensac, clinching 
his fists. 

" Come, citizens, come, quick," replied Molinchard, in 
a voice hoarse with emotion. 

" Where do you propose to take usr" asked Saint Senier, 
his eyes flashing ominously. 

" Come, come! we've no time for ceremony." 

" No one intends to harm you," Molinchard added, 
hastily. " Come, I beseech you. We haven't a minute 
to lose." 

" Very well," replied Podensac, thrusting the trembling 
surgeon aside. 

Eoger stepped to his friend's side, and together they 
walked down the long passage that connected the cottage 
with the main building, and on to the open door at the 
further end of it. 

A strange sight awaited them. At least a hundred 
armed communists crowded the narrow esplanade that sur- 
rounded the high walls of the hospital. In one corner 
were several wounded men to whom their comrades seemed 
to pay no attention whatever. 

In the midst of the crowd a man, georgeous in gold 
lace, was clinging awkwardly to the saddle of a gray horse. 
Two men were standing near by, gesticulating excitedly; 
one was holding a red rag aloft at the end of a pole, the 
other was brandishing a large cavalry saber. 



508 THE RED BAND. 

These men seemed to be not only the leaders, but the 
speakers of the party, for the prisoners had scarcely ap- 
peared upon the threshold when the man with the fl-ag ad- 
dressed them as follows: 

" Now, try to answer me honestly, if you can. The 
Versailles troops are coming up the Eue Lepic, and we 
have no time to lose. You have served in the army, 
haven't you?" 

" I was in command of the Enfants Perdus of the Eue 
Maubuee," replied Podensac, promptly, " and my friend 
here was an officer in the Mobiles." 

" That is ail we want to know," interrupted the orator 
of the occasion. " You must know how to command, 
then." 

" French soldiers, yes!" replied Roger, proudly, for he 
was beginning to understand the situation. 

'• Very well. Now you will command the soldiers of 
the Commune." 

" Never!" exclaimed the prisoners in the same breath. 

" There are more than a hundred of us here, but we 
know nothing about strategy, as that fool there on horse- 
back calls it, and we need experienced soldiers to organize 
the defense." 

" Find one, then," replied Podensac, calmly. 

" You can do as you please, of course," was the pronvpt 
retort, " but if you refuse, we'll have you placed over there 
against the wall, and shot before you can say Jack Robin- 
son. " 

" Consent, citizen, consent!" cried the man on horse- 
back. " The defense will be a very easy matter, and I 
will aid you with my counsels, if necessary." 

" Alcindor, as I live!" muttered the major, who had 
just recognized Master Antoine Pilevert's former pupil in 
the wearer of the gorgeous uniform. 

Roger took a step forward and looked the communist 
orator full in the face. 



THE RED BAND. 500 

"You can kill us/' he said, firmly, "but you shall 
never make us traitors. " 

Podensac said not a word, but he took his friend's hand 
and pressed it warmly. 

"So be it!" yelled the bandit, flourishing his saber. 
" You can die, then, and when those scoundrels get here, 
they will find only your carcasses riddled with bullets." 

The two friends looked at each other, and Roger slipped 
his hand through his friend's arm. 

" We are ready," he said quietly. " Where are we to 
place ourselves?" 

It was seldom, indeed, that the communists witnessed 
such a display of political or even military stoicism, and 
Saint Senier's courageous reply seemed to make quite an 
impression upon the by-standers. 

" He's got good grit in him and no mistake," muttered 
the holder of the saber. 

But his companion with the flag seemed to be considera- 
bly disconcerted, and it was very evident that they would 
have greatly preferred the two officers' assistance to the 
unpleasant necessity of having them shot. 

Alcindor seemed to share this feeling, and he did not 
deem it beneath his dignity to make one more attempt. 

Guiding his horse to the foot of the door-steps on which 
the two officers were standing, he drawled: 

" Citizens, of course I don't want to urge you, but you 
will certainly allow me to remind you that on the memora- 
ble 18th of March I saved your lives. But for my inter- 
vention, you would have fallen victims to the bullets of the 
same men who now ask your aid through me. " 

This insinuating speech seemed to be addressed especially 
to Podensac, and the major listened to it with profound 
attention. 

He hesitated for a moment, as if undecided what to re- 
ply, then giving Roger a slight nudge by way of a warn- 
ing, he snapped his lingers, as much as to say: 
\>--i.\ h.-iif. 



510 THE BED BAND. 

" What difference does it make, any way?" 

Then, descending the steps, he exclaimed: 

" Very well; Til do it." 
1 " Good, good!" shouted the orator of the party. 

" Hurrah for the major!" shouted the very same persons 
who had threatened to kill him in cold blood only a minute 
before. 

" I'll do it upon one condition," added Podensac. 

"And what is that?" 

" That my comrade shall be released." 

This second proposal was much less graciously re- 
ceived. 

" No, no, he will betray us to the Versailles officers," 
shouted the crowd. 

A few voices expressed a willingness to consent to the 
bargain, but they were drowned in the general uproar. 

Eoger turned pale on hearing Podensac 's generous offer 
to sacrifice himself for his sake. He was divided between 
a very natural desire to escape certain death and a regret 
at being obliged to owe his life to a compromise of such a 
nature. 

The man with the saber assumed the responsibility of 
settling the difficulty. 

" We can not release the officer," he said, curtly, " but 
we will promise not to hurt him, and he shall be allowed 
to smoke his pipe in ]3eace while we are fighting. Will 
that satisfy you?" 

" Yes/ 'replied the major, promptly, for he did not want 
to give Saint Seaier any chance to object. 

" Now will two trusty men volunteer to guard the aris- 
tocrat?" 

At least a dozen communists offered their services, so the 
man who had just uttered the request had only to make a 
selection. 

While this was going on, Podensac had found an oppor- 
tunity to whisper to his friend; 



THE BED JiAND. 511 

" Don't interfere. I am almost sure that I can get both 
of us safely out of the scrape. " 

Koger remained silent and motionless. 

" And now, if you want me to act as your leader, you 
must obey me implicitly," continued, the former com- 
mander of the Enfants Perdus. 

"Yes, yes!" 

" The destinies of the people are in your hands!" cried 
the solemn Alcindor, impressively. 

" All right," responded Podensac lightly; " but whde 
I'm saving the people, take my friend over to the foot of 
that low wall, and stand guard over him there. You see 
I'm a believer in fair play," he added. 

He had commanded the residents of the Eue Maubuee 
long enough to learn how to talk to the masses, and his 
success was complete. M. de Saint Senier's guards at once 
proceeded to conduct him to the spot indicated, while the 
major gravely proceeded to issue his orders to the two 
leaders of the band. 

The scene of the impending struggle was a slope directly 
in front of the villa — a hill sloping toward the north. 
Only a few steps from the house there was a sort of ravine 
protected by a low wall, and it was behind this rampart, 
which reached barely to his shoulders, that Roger had been 
placed. 

The firing seemed to be coming nearer, and it was evi- 
dent that the Versailles troops were making a vigorous at- 
tack upon the barricades on the southern side of the mount- 
ain, and that they were gradually gaining ground. Still, 
the resistance seemed to be desperate, for no wounded men 
jv fugitives showed themselves, and the absence of these 
precursors of a general rout reassured the communists. 
Podensac, of course, had his plans. 
He did not doubt the ultimate success of the Versailles 
irmy, and hadn't the slightest intention of fighting against 
it, though the idea of betraying the communists into the 



512 THE RED BAND. 

hands of their enemies was equally repugnant to him, so 
he decided upon a medium course, which consisted in sta- 
tioning his men at such points as would insure them a good 
chance to retreat when the moment of the assault came. 

He, for his own part, intended to take no part whatever 
in the struggle, and he had resigned himself in advance to 
the possible consequences of this inaction. 

"Nonsense!" he said to himself, "there is very little 
danger of my receiving a bullet from the Versailles troops, 
especially as I intend to make off, taking my friend Saint 
Senier with me, as soon as the row begins." 

And it was for this reason that the major had placed 
Roger near the edge of the little plateau. 

" I want him where I can put my hand on him at the 
critical moment," he said to himself, and as he passed 
the prisoner, who was leaning tranquilly against the wall 
between his two guards, Podensac gave him a look that said 
as plainly as any words, " Hold yourself hi readiness." 

The man with the saber was just giving a very different 
order to his subordinates. 

"If the aristocrat makes any attempt to escape," he 
cried, " blow his brains out, and be quick about it." 

This savage order did not alarm the lieutenant much, 
however, for he felt sure the communists would become 
utterly demoralized when they saw the regulars approach- 
ing, and that they would think only of making their es- 
cape; so he did not interfere. 

The little body of men of which he had become the un- 
willing leader obeyed his instructions with marvelous 
docility, for a consciousness of their danger had produced 
a willingness to obey, even in the most rebellious. 

Besides, the man with the saber and the color-bearer had 
constituted themselves officers, and would not have coun- 
tenanced the slightest breach of discipline. 

Podensac had selected the houses overlooking the es- 
planade of the Moulin de la Gallette, and about three hun- 



THE RED BAND. 513 

dred yards from it, as the point to be defended, and the 
little band soon disappeared around the corner of Dr. 
Molinchard's establishment, leaving Saint Senier alone 
with his guards on the little plateau which had been the 
scene of such confusion a few minutes before — and with the 
prudent Alcindor, who did not feel obliged to follow his 
comrades. 

" Cavalry can not fight in the streets," he said, as he 
watched the little procession file by; so he continued to 
cling to his richly decorated saddle, which must have been 
stolen from some officer. 

Eoger troubled himself very little about this grotesque 
personage, however. He was too deeply absorbed in his 
own reflections to even gaze at the magnificent panorama 
spread out before him. From the spot where he stood he 
could see the whole of the immense horizon that incloses 
the Plain Saint Denis. The hills of Orgemont and the 
woods of Montmorency were bathed in sunlight, and a 
little further on he could discern the Prussian flag floating 
over the fort at Aubervilliers — a sign of foreign invasion 
seemed to have been planted there to render the civil war 
still more odious. 

Seen from this point the city seemed perfectly quiet, and 
even around the bastions at the foot of Montmartre no 
smoke or sign of fighting was visible. 

But on the other side of the hill the cannon were bellow- 
ing forth defiance, and so heavy was the firing that the very 
mountain shook and trembled as if it were about to crum- 
ble into dust. 

It was evident that the end was fast approaching, and 
Saint Senier's guards began to manifest unmistakable signs 
of uneasiness. 

Their eyes were continually turning in the direction 
Podensac had taken, and they were evidently holding them- 
selves in readiness to flee at the slightest alarm. 

Roger was thinking of Renee, however, and by a singular 



514 THE BED BAND. 

freak of the imagination there arose before him the forests 
and turrets of the old chateau, where he first saw in his 
beautiful cousin's eyes that his love was returned. 

These reflections were interrupted by the shrill whistle of 
a bullet. The projectile had passed only a few inches 
above Eoger's head, and had probably grazed Alcindor's 
horse, for that peaceable animal began to prance about in a 
rather alarming fashion, and so grotesque was the appear- 
ance of his frightened rider that Koger could hardly help 
laughing. 

His two guardians evinced no desire to laugh, however, 
but exchanged terrified glances as if wondering whence this 
unwelcome visitor came. 
, " They're coming," growled one of the communists. 

" Let's run," whispered the other. 

" But what shall we do with our prisoner?" 

" We'd better just knock him in the head and have done 
with it." 

" I think we had better wait awhile. It will be time 
enough to put an end to him when we see our comrade re- 
turning. " 

Alcindor, who had finally succeeded in regaining his 
equilibrium, now rode up to Eoger, and in the pedantic 
tone he always used, remarked: 

" I have been trying in vain to calculate the trajectory, 
and I am now convinced that the projectile came from over 
there." 

As he spoke he pointed to a row of houses at the foot of 
the cliff, but Saint Senier did not even take the trouble to 
turn and look. 

" I think it would be Avell for me to alight from my 
horse," he continued; " I run a great risk of being killed 
if I remain in the saddle, and I ought to preserve my life 
if possible for the sake of the people." 

" That is very excellent reasoning," said Eoger, ironical- 
ly, " and I am sure that your friend, the doctor, that we 



THE 11ED BAKD. 515 

see over there, would be greatly obliged to you if you would 
give him similar advice." 

Molinchard had just reappeared upon the steps. He had 
disappeared during the conversation that preceded Poden- 
sac's departure, possibly with the intention of placing cer- 
tain compromising papers, or dishonestly acquired securities 
in a place of safety. 

On hearing of his comrade's return Alcindor turned his 
horse about to go and meet him. 

It was an unfortunate thing for him that he did not obey 
his first impulse, however, for just as he executed this 
movement the unfortunate youth swayed from one side of 
the saddle to the other, and then fell face downward upon 
his horse's neck. 

He tried to catch at the reins, but in another instant he 
relaxed his hold and fell heavily to the ground, crying: 

" Help! I'm killed! I'm killed!" 

The blood gushed from his mouth as he uttered this last 
despairing cry, and the guards, forgetting their orders, 
sprung forward to lift him, and even Koger ran to the as- 
sistance of the wounded man. 

We must do Molinchard the justice to say that he reached 
Alcindor almost at the same instant, but the unfortunate 
youth was already in the agonies of death. 

" The bullet entered the back and passed out below the 
collar bone,"murmuredthe physician. " He is a dead man. ' ' 

Alcindor tried to speak, but in vain. His face had al- 
ready became livid, and his limbs rigid. 

" It is all over," said Molinchard, rising to his feet, and 
casting an anxious glance around him. " He, too, seemed 
to be wondering whence the bullet had come, and to feel 
strongly inclined to beat a hasty retreat to the villa. 

"They seem to be making a target of us," exclaimed 
one of Eoger's guardians. 

" May the devil take me if I stay here a minute longer," 
declared the other. 



510 THE RED BAKD. 

" But we can't leave our post without warning our com- 
rades who are fighting down there." 

" We'll send them word then." 

" That's a good idea. Here, doctor, jump on that horse, 
and gallo]3 down to the mill, and tell our friends that it's 
getting too hot for us up here, and that we're going to take 
ourselves off." 

" But if I mount the horse I, too, may be killed," stam- 
mered the perplexed doctor. 

" You needn't think we're going to waste time in trying 
to persuade you," said one of the communists, loading his 
gun. 

Molinchard put his foot in the stirrup without an in- 
stant's delay. 

Eoger had remained by the body of Alcindor, and with 
his back to his guards. 

" Now's our time," whispered one of the scoundrels, 
raising his gun to fire. 

The marvelous changes that occurred during the next 
few seconds almost beggar description. 

Molinchard, who had just vaulted into the saddle, had 
barely time to cry, " The Versailles troops! Vie are lost!" 
and to put spurs to his horse. 

From his more elevated position he had caught sight of 
the soldiers who were scaling the walls behind the two 
communists. 

Another cry answered his, but it was uttered by a woman. 

" Eoger, take care!" she cried. 

Saint Senier heard it, and turned. 

The movement saved his life. 

The communist fired just as the lieutenant sprung to- 
ward the speaker, and the bullet did not reach him. 

A dozen bayonets pierced the body of the would-be 
assassin, but the other scoundrel was a few feet further off, 
and before the soldiers could reach him he had time to dis- 
charge his weapon at the young woman who was clad in 



THE RED BAND. 517 

the garb of a cantiniere, and she fell into the outstretched 
arms of the lieutenant. 

" Eegina, my poor Eegina!" he murmured, trying to 
sustain her. 

But the jjoor girl sunk bleeding to the ground. 

The soldiers who had so unexpectedly appeared made 
short work of the young girl'"s murderer, and then turned 
upon Eoger, whom they very naturally regarded with sus- 
picion, seeing him in such a place. 

Some of these brave men had even leveled their guns at 
him, when a sergeant sprung between them and their in- 
tended victim, shouting: 

" Stop! I know him. He's a moblot." 

The officer who had led this bold charge was not inclined 
to let his men linger on the plateau, so the bugles were 
again sounded, and the soldiers, who proved to be volun- 
teers instead of regulars, started off on the double quick 
toward the Moulin de la Galette. 

Eoger and the sergeant remained kneeling beside Eegina. 

"It is I! Pierre Bourdier!" said the sergeant, softly. 
" I little expected to meet you here. " 

Eegina was half reclining, half sitting at the foot of the 
wall where she had fallen, and it was impossible to doubt 
the serious if not fatal nature of her wound. 

A livid pallor overspread her delicate features, and her 
breathing was labored and irregular. 

" If she had only listened to me she would have remained 
in the ambulance," muttered Bourdier; "but no, one 
would suppose that she suspected you were here." 

" I knew it," whispered the dying girl, in a voice so 
faint as to hardly be audible. 

" She speaks!" exclaimed the sergeant. 

Eoger was equally amazed at this miracle, but he lacked 
courage to question the fair girl who had just given her life 
for him. " 

"It seems, indeed, a miracle," muttered Bourdier. 



518 THE RED BAND. 

" Still, that is no reason "why we should not at least make 
an effort to save her. If we only had a doctor here he 
might — " 

" Yes, yes, if we only had a doctor/' repeated Eoger. 

" The one belonging to our regiment remained with our 
wounded yesterday, but the regulars must have joined our 
comrades by this time, and they perhaps have a surgeon 
with them. I'll be back in ten minutes!" cried the ser- 
geant, starting off at full speed in the direction of the mill. 

The fight was now raging furiously in this immediate 
neighborhood, and the shrill notes of the bugles sounding 
the charge rose high above the sullen roar of the distant 
cannon. 

The bodies of the two communists were lying in a pool 
of blood, and only a few steps from them lay the tall form 
of the unfortunate clown. 

The clear sunlight of a beautiful May morning was shin- 
ing down upon this scene of carnage, and the birds, fright- 
ened by the clash of arms, were calling plaintively from 
the roof of the villa. 

Regina made one supreme effort, and drew from her 
bosom a letter that she held out to Eoger. He took it with 
a trembling hand, but he had not time to glance at it. 
, " Come closer — Eoger," whispered the young girl. 

He stooped until his face nearly touched hers. 

" Closer — closer still!" 

Their lips approached each other. 

" Eoger! I loved you!" 

And the soul of the dying girl took flight in a chaste kiss. 



THE RED BAND. 519 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

The last day of this unholy strife had just dawned. 

After a night disturbed by firing from the heights of 
Pere la Chaise, where the doomed insurrectionists had taken 
refuge, the residents of Paris and its suburbs woke to the 
beautiful light of a lovely May morning. 

Between Maisons Laffi.t„te and Poissy, on the wooded 
slopes that extend from the Seine to the forest of Saint 
Germain, all nature seemed rejuvenated by the dawn of 
this magnificent spring morning. 

It seemed as if the forest had adorned itself in its most 
beautiful apparel to celebrate the deliverance of Paris, and 
as if earth, weary of so many scenes of horror, wished to 
show men that their strife leaves no trace upon her flower- 
decked breast. 

On a lovely road, not far from the place where Eegina 
and Eoger first met Pierre Bourdier several months before, 
two men were lying on the grass by the way-side. 

The younger of the two men seemed to be overcome with 
fatigue. He was lying on his side, with his head resting 
upon his arm, and his limbs in the attitude that betrays 
the exhaustion produced by a long and painful walk. His 
companion had gathered himself up in a heap, with his 
chin resting upon his knees, and with his eyes and ears 
evidently upon the alert. 

One felt sure, after a single glance at him, that he was 
the possessor of an iron will that dominated any physical 
fatigue, and the looks of contempt he cast upon his com- 
panion indicated that he did not place much dependence on 
him. 

" It is time to start," he remarked suddenly, in a harsh, 
unmusical voice. " We ought to have resumed our journey 
an hour ago. " 



"r 



520 THE RED BAND. 

The man who was stretched out upon the grass did not 
move, however. 

" Come, stir yourself/' continued the first speaker. 

I've no desire to get caught waiting for you." 
Very well, go on by yourself, then," replied the other, 
without changing his posture. 

" You would be highly incensed if I should take you at 
your word. " 

" By no means, for I should be rid of your talk and of 
your presence. " 

"Indeed! I think you have no cause to complain of 
either. But for me you would have been shot or at least 
sent to prison." 

" Anything would be better than the fate that awaits 
me," said the tired man, sullenly. 

His companion burst into a loud, coarse laugh. 

"Your despair amuses me very much, " he remarked, 
mockingly, though I really fail to understand the cause of 
these lamentations. Are you thinking of your lost prin- 
cess?" 

This ironical question brought the reclining man in- 
stantly to his feet. 

" I forbid you to speak of her," he said, dryly. 

" Nonsense!" 

" Yes, I forbid it, and if you speak another word on the 
subject I will leave you. " 

" Come, come! Don't lose your temper, I will respect 
the name of the noble heiress to the great house of Char- 
miere, but it will not be on account of your threats. You 
know as well as I do that we can not part company. " 

" I know what you are going to say, but money isn't 
everything, and the life I have before me is not worth fight- 
ing for." 

" Look here, Valuoir," said the other man, in a calmer 
tone, " will* you listen to me, and talk the matter over a 
little without getting angry? You are- in the depths of de- 



THE BED BAND. 521 

spair because we have been beaten. The government has 
triumphed, and you seem to feel that all is lost. Eeally, I 
supposed you more of a man." 

"But what is to become of us now?" asked Valnoir, 
gloomily. 

" One would suppose that you were utterly unprepared 
for the arrival of the Versailles Army? Can it be that you 
really believed the bulletins we published every morning to 
encourage those fools?" 

Valnoir's only reply was a shrug of the shoulders. 

" Ah, well, I see you are more sensible than I supposed, 
and now that the deluge has come, we must take our pre- 
cautions and protect ourselves, that is all." 

" If you are referring to the few thousands we have made 
out of our paper, I warn you that I have no desire to eke 
out a miserable existence upon such a sum in some den in 
London or Geneva." 

" For what do you take me?" asked Taupier, majestic- 
ally. " You might know that I have no such absurd idea, 
it seems to me. " 

" "What do you mean, then?" asked Valnoir, in some 
astonishment. 

" I mean that you must have a very short memory if 
you have already forgotten what we did in this forest." 

" Forgotten? No, certainly not. I have good cause 
to remember the place to which you are conducting 
me." 

" On account of that duel, I suppose you mean. Upon 
my word I had forgotten it, and I advise you to do the 
same; but the casket we deposited there, my friend, is well 
worth the trouble of a search." 

" Yes," said Valnoir, bitterly, "it is to you that I also 
am indebted for this burden upon my conscience. A fort- 
une lost, my brother's child defrauded, and jierhaps dead 
of starvation through my act. And all this in vain, for you 
know as well as I do that — " 



522 THE BED BAND. 

" I know many things that you do not/' interrupted the 
hunchback; "but before I tell you them I would like to 
review the facts a little. " 

" I suppose you are not going to deny that you advised 
me — " 

" To apply for the guardianship of your niece? I not 
only do not deny it, but I even pride myself upon the fact. 
Now, let us talk the matter over a little, as I said before. 
Three years ago, before the establishment of the ' Serpen- 
teau ' was thought of, you were in the depth of poverty, if 
I remember right. " 

" Well, what of it? What are you driving at?" 

" By the merest chance," continued Taupier, coolly, " I 
learned that a certain Count Luot had recently died in Cali- 
fornia, leaving a round million to a certain Gabrielle de 
Noirval, who had in her possession a will to that effect, 
which had been drawn up some time before. The 
friend who brought me this agreeable intelligence had 
been deputized to find the heiress, but did not know 
where to look for her; but I, who was intimately acquaint- 
ed with a person known by the name of Charles Valnoir, 
and who knew the relationship that existed between him 
and this young girl, began the search, and finally discov- 
ered his niece in a boarding-school at Bordeaux. " 

" Yes; and you managed the affair so adroitly that the 
terrified young girl fled one fine morning, and has never 
been heard of since." 

" If she was afraid of any one, it certainly was not of me, 
for she had never seen me, and she fled the day before I 
was to present myself at the boarding-school. It seems that 
she had no confidence in her uncle, with whom she had lit- 
tle or no acquaintance, and that she chose to run away 
rather than submit to his guardianship. " 

" I tell you once more that I know this story only too 
well,"' said Valnoir, impatiently. " You secured posses- 
sion of the casket that contained the will and other papers, 



THE BED BAND. 523 

and when the siege began you suggested the brilliant idea 
of burying it under an oak-tree for safe-keeping." 
" And I am not sorry." 

" It is very evident that you were a writer of romance 
before you went into politics. Your scheme might sound 
very well in a novel, but I don't see what advantage we are 
likely to derive from it. In the first place, we are by no 
means sure that we shall find the box where we hid it. The 
forest has been occupied for six months or more by the 
Prussians — " 

" Who are very clever at discovering buried casks of 
wine, but who do not waste their time in aimlessly digging 
up the ground in a forest. " 

" Perhaps not; but, even admitting that the casket is still 
there, and that we succeed in reaching the spot where it is 
3oncealed, what can we do with it when we find it?" 

"You will see." 

<l You forget that the production of this will is not go- 
ng to give me any claim to the estate of this Luot, for it 
Delongs to my niece. You probably forget that one inher- 
es only at the death of one'l relatives, and that this niece 
s likely to live much longer than her uncle." 

"The young sometimes die first," said Taupier, sen- 
;entiously. 

" Besides, even if she should die a hundred times over I 
should be no better off unless I had proofs of her de- 
nise." 

" That is true. I am quite- as familiar with the code as 
rou are; but I nevertheless congratulate you upon being a 
nillionaire. " 

" Do stop your absurd jesting!" 

" I am not jesting, for I have the certificate of your 
foung relative's death in my pocket," responded the hunch- 
jack, coolly. 

Valuoir sprung up as if the bugles of a Versailles squad' 
;on were resounding in his ear§, 



524 THE BED BAND. 

" You have the certificate of my niece's death?" he re- 
peated, in accents of the profoundest astonishment. 

" Yes; and it is regular in every way, I assure you." 

" Give it to me, then." 

" You are in a great hurry. It seems to me that it 
would look better for you to inquire what became of 
your niece before asking to see the certificate of her 
death." 

" You are right/ 5 said Valnoir, bitterly; " and what you 
say reminds me that my brother's daughter disappeared a 
long time ago, and that if you had really found her, I 
should have heard of it before." 

" Then you think I invented this story, I suppose?" 

" I certainly do." 

" Ah, well, my dear fellow, all I've got to say is that you 
do my imagination too much honor, for I not only found 
your niece, but you knew her just as well as I did." 

" I wish you would stop talking in enigmas." 

" This enigma is not very difficult, and I will give you 
the answer to it if you like. " 

" I suppose you have not forgotten the pretty girl who 
enacted the part of a fortune-teller in Pilevert's traveling 
troupe, and whom we saw in the woods on the morning of 
your famous duel." 

"Who? Regina?" 

" The same, my dear friend. Ah, well, I have once 
more seen the fact proved that all this talk about the in- 
stincts of blood is arrant nonsense, for when you saw her 
you little thought that you were contemplating the only heir 
to your illustrious name." 

" You are certainly mad! My niece's name was Gabri- 
elle." 

" Y r es, at the boarding-school; but in the certificate of 
birth that we shall find in the casket, she is designated, as 
they say in the courts, by the name of Regina Gabrielle 
Louise." 



THE RED BAND. 525 

" It is only a strange coincidence, I am sure. My broth- 
er's daughter was not dumb, while this girl — " 

" Played her part as well as Fenella in the ' Dumb Girl 
of Portici;' but she could have talked if she wanted to, and 
she did before she died/' 

" She is dead, then?" 

" Didn't I tell you that I had the certificate of her death 
in my pocket?' ' 

" Look here, Taupier," exclaimed the unfortunate edi- 
tor-in-chief of the " Serpenteau," passing his hand over 
his brow. " Explain more clearly, I beg of you." 

" Very well; I will take pity on you, for I perceive that 
you are incapable of reasoning calmly. Know then, my 
dear friend, that last Tuesday, while you were engaged in 
strapping your fair lady-love's trunks in her house on the 
Place de la Madeleine, I was covering myself with glory on 
the heights of Montmartre. " 

Valnoir could not repress a movement of mingled scorn 
and impatience. 

" You can doubt my exploits, if you like," continued 
Taupier, coolly, " but you will perhaps be willing to admit 
that I was at Molinchard's house when the Versailles troops 
attacked it." 

" You were hiding in the cellar, probably, if you were in 
the house at all. " 

" Whether I was in the cellar or elsewhere, matters very 
little. The fact that they did not capture me is a self-evi- 
dent one. In fact, the enemy treated me with great re- 
spect, for they mistook me for a member of the Ambulance 
Corps, and I assisted friend Molinchard in caring for the 
Wounded of both parties. While I was thus engaged, they 
brought in a cantiniere who had received a fatal wound in 
the breast, and under this new disguise I recognized Pile- 
vert's former protegee. " 

" This seems incredible!" 

" But it is true, nevertheless; and you may rest as- 



526 THE RED BAND. 

sured that I wasted no time in weeping over the de- 
ceased. As soon as the fighting was over, I set to 
work with praiseworthy zeal to establish the identity of 
the dead girl. In the pocket of the pretended cantiniere I 
found papers that prevented any possibility of doubt in re- 
gard not only to her own name, but that of her father, 
and, arming myself with these documents, and taking two 
witnesses with me, I hastened to the mayor's office of the 
18th Arrondissement, and had the death of Regina Louise 
Gabrielle de Noirval recorded in the municipal register." 

Valnoir's agitation was so great that he was unable to 
speak. 

" I even took the precaution to secure a copy of the 
entry," continued Taupier. 

" And you have it with you:" 

" As I had the honor to tell you some time ago." 

" Then the property is miner" 

" Ours, you mean," corrected the hunchback. 

"Ours!" repeated Valnoir. "Can it be that you con- 
sider yourself a member of my family?" 

" I am aware that I have not that honor," said Taupier. 
" My father was a petty grocer of Montrouge, but he never 
changed his name." 

" Nor did mine," retorted the editor-in-chief quickly. 
" Though I wrote for the press under another name, I am 
none the less Charles de Noirval, my niece's only heir." 

" Exactly; but how can you claim the inheritance with- 
out producing the death certificate of the person referred 
tor" 

" I can procure a copy." 

"By soliciting it at the office of the Mayor of Mont- 
martre? That would be an excellent way to insure your 
arrest. " 

" I can write from London or Geneva for it." 

" In that case, are you sure that the authorities of those 
cities will not surrender you to the French Government? 



THE 11ED BAND. l>27 

There is a very strong feeling against us in foreign lands, 
and I for my own part should be very loath to trust to the 
hospitality of our neighbors. " 

Valnoir hung his head without replying. The hunch- 
back's argument was a sound one. He could not foresee 
that a day was to come when incendiaries and assassins 
would be insured protection on foreign shores. 

" Well, my friend, all things considered, I think that my 
plan is better than yours, " resumed the hunchback. 

" What is your plan?" 

" It is this: Monsieur de Luot's fortune, which consists 
principally of ready money, has been deposited at the 
French Consulate in San Francisco. Day after to-morrow 
we will embark at Havre for Southampton, and from there 
for New York, upon one of the English steamers. When 
we have once set foot upon the sacred soil of free America, 
we shall have nothing more to fear, for in that promised 
land extradition is a myth, and I even believe that we shall 
be received with open arms. Then there will be nothing to 
prevent you from asserting your claims through the media- 
tion of some clever lawyer, and when the matter has been 
arranged, we will go on by rail to San Francisco and get 
the money. Do you understand now? Is this explanation 
sufficiently clear?" 

Valnoir could not deny that it was. 

" Well, supposing you are right, what are you driving 
at?" he inquired. 

" I must call your attention to the fact that to carry out 
this plan successfully you must have the certificate of Ee- 
gina's death immediately— that I have this document in my 
pocket, and that for this reason I consider myself joint heir 
to your niece's fortune." 
^ " I understand. You want to sell this document to me. " 

" Precisely." 

" Name your price." 

" Oh, no, I can trust you. 1 feel Sure that vou will dp 



528 THE RED BAND. 

what is right by me when you get hold of the money; 
but—" 

" There is a but, of course. " 

" One never knows who is to live and who is to die, as 
the saying is. One of us may be arrested before we reach 
Havre; the steamer upon which we embark maybe wrecked, 
the train on the Pacific Eailroad may run off the track — " 

" Spare me further conjectures, if you please. " 

"In short, you may die, and I may survive you. Im- 
probable as this seems, I think it only right to take my 
precautions, so I ask you to give me a little writing, signed 
and dated, by which you make me your sole legatee. 
Thanks to this mere formality, the Count de Luot's 
fortune will not revert to the State. Regiha will inherit it 
from him; you will inherit it from Eegina, and I will in- 
herit it from you. " 

" I admire your foresight, and I will write the document 
at the next tavern. " 

"The next tavern is a long way off. I would much 
rather you did it here and now. " 

" But what am I to write it on — a bit of birch bark?" 

" No; that might impair its validity. I have all the 
necessary materials here. " 

As he spoke, he drew a leather roll from his pocket, and 
extracted from it pen, ink and paper. 

" Here, my friend," he remarked, passing them to Val- 
noir, " write your last will and testament, and as soon as 
it is signed I will give you the certificate of your niece's 
death in exchange for it." 

Valnoir hesitated a moment, but afterward complied with 
the request, for after hastily writing a few lines he handed 
the paper to the hunchback, who must have found it satis- 
factory, for after glancing over it he surrendered to his 
companion the document he had procured at the mayor's 
office. 



THE RED BAND. 529 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

While Valnoir and Taupier were quarreling over the 
property of their victim, Eenee de Saint Senier was suffer- 
ing the most poignant anxiety. 

Soon after her interview with Pilevert, she saw the lurid 
glare of incendiary fires lighting up the heavens. For four 
evenings in succession she watched the conflagration from 
a distance, but great as was the horror inspired by the 
heinous crimes of the communists, it was not the fate of 
her country's capital that troubled her most. 

On the contrary, she was continually asking herself if 
the man she loved was still living in the midst of that fiery 
furnace. 

As soon as she learned that the troops had succeeded in 
gaining an entrance into the city, she endeavored in every 
possible way to obtain some news of him, but all her letters 
and messages proved unavailing. 

The struggle was still going on in the streets, and the 
privileged few who obtained permission to enter the city 
found it well-nigh impossible to leave it again. 

Renee, consequently, was impatiently awaiting the day 
when she herself would be allowed to visit the capital, 
and hearing, on the following Sunday morning, that the 
insurrection was virtually crushed, and that her intended 
journey would become practicable in a day or two, the girl 
hastily concluded her preparations for departure, and then, 
partly to while away the tedious hours of waiting, and 
partly from a very natural curiosity to see the place where 
her brother had been the victim of an infamous conspiracy, 
she decided to pay a visit to the giant oak. 

Pilevert had been asked to serve as their guide on this 
pilgrimage; and on the afternoon of the day that was to be 
the last of her exile, Renee hired a light carriage, and with 



530 THE RED BAND. 

Pilevert on the seat opposite her, and Landreau acting as 
driver, started for the Etoile du Ohene Oapitaine. 

The air was mild, and the blue sky was distinctly visible 
through the branches. 

" Fine weather this," remarked Pilevert, merely for the 
sake of saying something, for he seemed both flattered and 
embarrassed by the honor conferred upon him. 

But Kenee did not seem to hear the commonplace re- 
mark. 

" Are we far from the spot?" she inquired, with evident 
emotion. 

" It won't take us more than half an hour at the very 
longest to reach it now," replied Pilevert. "I traveled 
over this very road the other day, after I found the box, 
and I am sure that we are not more than three or four 
miles from the tree." 

Just as he gave her this assurance, the carriage reached 
the entrance to another road, and Landreau, who was driv- 
ing, suddenly stopped his horses, uttering a cry of surprise 
as he did so. 

Pence leaned out of the carriage to see what had caused 
the exclamation. She saw nothing, but the old game- 
keej^er had already leaped from the box, and was now run- 
ning down the other road as fast as his legs would carry him. 

Pilevert, who was quite as much astonished as Mile, de 
Saint Senier, manifested his surprise in incoherent exclama- 
tions. To these his companion paid little or no attention, 
however. She was too much engaged in listening to the 
joyful exclamations that seemed to come from a short dis- 
tance down the road. 

Kenee thought she recognized the voice of the person 
with whom Landreau was conversing, and her agitation was 
so great that she was unable to open the carriage door. 
While her trembling hand was still upon the handle, the 
bushes on the road-side parted, and a man sprung toward 
the carriage. 



THE P>ED BAND. 531 

It was Roger, pale with emotion — Roger, safo and 
sound. 

His betrothed forgot the long days of anguish and the 
nights of despair through which she had passed; she even 
forgot her usual reserve, and threw her arms rapturously 
about her cousin's neck. 

Landreau watched the meeting with tears of joy in his 
eyes. 

"Ah! my lieutenant!" he exclaimed. "I knew that 
you would prove too clever for the scoundrels, and that I 
should see you again sooner or later." 

"Thanks, my friend," said Roger. "I managed to 
escape them, but I did think for awhile that I should never 
see you again," 

" You have passed through countless dangers, I am 
sure," murmured Renee. 

" Yes, and had it not been for the devotion of our little 
friend, I should not be alive to-day," said Roger, feel- 
ingly. 

" Our little friend!" repeated Mile, de Saint Senier, be- 
wildered. 

" Yes, Regina, Regina, who threw herself between me 
and the wretches who were trying to take my life/' 

" But she is alive and well, is she not?" asked Renee, 
anxiously. 

Then, receiving no reply: 

" She is a prisoner, or wounded, perhaps," she added. 

" She is dead," answered Saint Senier. " She died with 
your name upon her lips, and just before she breathed her 
last, she handed me this." 

Renee took it with a trembling hand. 

" It is addressed to me," she murmured, glancing at the 
envelope. 

" Yes, it was to you that she gave her last thought," 
said Roger. 

He had not forgotten the confession that escaped Regina 



532 THE RED BAND. 

at the final moment, but he could not repeat it, not even 
to the woman he loved. 

Mile, de Saint Senier had opened the letter, but she was 
too deeply agitated to decipher the fine, close handwriting. 

" Read it to me," she said, handing it back to Eoger. 

The young man complied in a voice that was at times 
almost inaudible from emotion. 

" ' I have a presentiment that I am about to die, and I 
am anxious that those who received and protected me 
should know the melancholy story of my life. 

" ' I am alone in the world, and to escape a bitter enemy 
of my father's— a man who brought dishonor upon our 
name — I was obliged to flee from the only asylum left me, 
and assume a disguise for which I have often blushed. 

" Can my benefactress forgive me for having feigned 
dumbness in order to more effectually elude the pursuit of 
my persecutors? Besides, I took a solemn oath not to speak 
until I had unmasked the wretch whose machinations made 
me an orphan. 

" 'If I succumb in the struggle, I intrust the work of 
avenging me to the noble young girl who so generously 
befriended me, and I entreat her not to refuse the souvenir 
I here bequeath to her.' " 

Eoger paused, surprised at finding in this letter only a 
rather vague expression of gratitude. 

But the reason of this soon became apparent. 

The envelope contained several other papers. Upon one 
was written the last will and testament of Gabrielle de Noir- 
val, who made Mile. Benee de Saint Senier her sole legatee. 

The others contained a full account of her adventures, 
and designated the place where the casket stolen by Tau- 
pier was biiried — the casket that Eegina had seen him con- 
ceal on the day of the duel, and that the Prussians had 
prevented her from recovering. 

" At the foot of the giant oak/' said Eoger thought- 
fully, as he concluded his perusal of the papers. 



THE RED BAND. u3.; 



CHAPTER XXX. 



Fight was approaching, and the shadows of evening 
were already descending upon the large trees of the clear- 
ing where Louis de Saint Senier had fallen a victim to his 
opponent's bullet. 

Valnoir and Taupier had spent nearly all the day in a 
dense thicket, from which they did not dare to emerge un- 
til nearly twilight, but the hunchback, who had spent a 
good deal of time in this locality, seemed to have no diffi- 
culty in finding his way through the forest. 

Valnoir followed him mechanically. He had not spoken 
a dozen words since they started, and overcome with re- 
morse and fatigue, he seemed to have grown more than ten 
years older in the past week. 

Taupier, on the contrary, seemed in the best of spirits as 
he plodded along, whistling the popular airs of the day, 
and his repulsive face had not lost its usual mocking ex- 
pression. 

A few hundred yards from the Etoile du Chene CapL 
taine, on the side of a lonely path, they came across one of 
the boxes in which the laborers employed in the forest 
keep their tools. The boards that covered it offered very 
little resistance to the united efforts of Taupier and his 
companion, who broke it open without the slightest 
scruple, and selected two heavy spades from its contents. 

"We must make baste now," said Taupier, as he 
shouldered his spade. " We have only just enough day- 
light left to find the place." 

They traversed the clearing with a rapid step and they 
scarcely reached the foot of the tree when the hunchback, 
pointing to a slight inequality in the soil, exclaimed: 

"There it is!" 

Without losing a second, he pulled off his coat, spat upon 



5'di THE RED BAND. 

his hands as if he had been a laborer all his life, and seiz- 
ing his spade, exclaimed: 

" Come, let's to work! We must have what we are 
after in five minutes, at the longest." 

Valnoir did not seem to hear him. Leaning on his 
spade, he stood gazing abstractedly at one end of the clear- 
ing, murmuring: 

" Over there, it was over there that he fell!" 

Taupier's only response was a sneer. 

" I can still see him lying on the grass with his ghastly 
face, and his hand covered with the blood that was pouring 
from his breast. " 

" Say, did you come here merely to play tragedy?" ex- 
claimed the hunchback, shaking him roughly by the arm. 

" Don't touch me. You fill me with horror!" 

" I think you must have gone mad. I do upon my 
word!" 

" No," replied Valnoir, in a tone so low as to be scarce- 
ly audible, " I am not mad; I am afraid." 

" Afraid of what? Of ghosts?" 

(i I don't know, but I am afraid." 

"You certainly are an arrant coward," said Taupier, 
scornfully. " It isn't worth while to be born a gentleman 
and be called the Count de Noirval, if one is going to act 
in this way. " 

" I forbid you to utter a name that belonged to my fa- 
ther — to my father who also died a violent death," he add- 
ed, in a hollow voice. 

" Look here!" exclaimed the hunchback with a sudden 
change of tone. " I really pity you; and while you are 
concluding your elegy, I'll go to work. You can take my 
place when I get tired." 

And without waiting for any reply he made a vigorous 
attack upon the ground with his spade, and the soil yielded 
with a readiness that must have excited his suspicions, for 
he growled between his set teeth: 



THE IlED BAND. 535 

" Zounds! one would think this ground had been stirred 
lately." 

Nevertheless, he did not pause in his work, but continued 
to wield the spade with feverish energy. 

Valnoir, leaning against the tree, watched him without 
appearing really conscious of what he was doing. 

The sturdy hunchback displayed such zeal that in less 
than ten minutes he had made an excavation of very con- 
siderable depth; and as the soil offered more and more re- 
sistance as he proceeded, he became more and more san- 
guine of success. 

Influenced by this belief undoubtedly, he paused, wiped 
the perspiration from his forehead, and stepped out of the 
hole, remarking — 

" It is now your turn, my friend. Your blues must have 
passed off by this time, and we haven't a minute to lose. " 

Valnoir still seemed loath to accept the invitation. 

" Don't be afraid; I'll soon relieve you, "remarked Tau- 
pier. " I don't want you to blister your lily-white hands; 
Eose wouldn't like it." 

It was perhaps this foolish jest that induced the editor- 
in-chief of the " Serpenteau" to take his subordinate's 
place. At all events, he leaped into the hole and began to 
dig, bending low over his spade, like a man unaccustomed 
to manual labor. 

Taupier was directly behind him. 

With a movement quicker than thought itself he lifted 
his spade with both hands so as to give greater power to the 
blow. 

Valnoir was leaning over, and could not see what was 
going on behind him. 

Suddenly the heavy spade descended upon his head with 
the rapidity of lightning, and Eose de Charmiere's un- 
fortunate lover with a shattered skull fell face downward 
into the hole. 

The hunchback stood on the edge of the hole for a mo- 



536 THE BED BAND. 

merit gazing down with dry eyes at the motionless form of 
this man who had been his friend; then his hideous mouth 
contracted to give vent to a burst of diabolical laughter. 

Then brandishing his spade he added: 

" The race of Noirvals will trouble me no more. I began 
to exterminate it on the barricade in the Faubourg du Tem- 
ple in June, 1848. After waiting for twenty-three years I 
certainly have a right to their inheritance. " 

Pulling the body out of the hole Taupier resumed his 
work with such feverish eagerness that the excavation 
rapidly increased in depth. 

" It is very strange," muttered the scoundrel after sev- 
eral minutes of arduous toil, " but it seems to me that the 
box was not buried so deep as this/' 

He continued his work, however, but with the same want 
of success; and after a quarter of an hour he was obliged to 
admit to himself that the box had disappeared. 

On coming to this conclusion the hunchback uttered a 
growl of rage, threw aside his spade, and clambered up out 
of the hole. 

It is more than probable that a feeling of remorse seized 
him now — the first that had ever visited this hardened heart. 
All his carefully made plans had come to naught, and Tau- 
pier found himself confronted by his ghastly crime — a 
crime, too, which had been worse than useless. 

Exile and poverty were before him, and leaning against 
the trunk of the giant oak, he was thinking of the dreary 
future that awaited him, when a hand was laid upon his 
shoulder. 

He turned hastily. 

Confronting him was a man of lofty stature enveloped in 
a long cloak. 

Taupier's first feeling was one of intense anger, and 
springing upon the stranger he tried to seize him by the 
throat, but when he found himself face to face with him he 
uttered a cry of terror and recoiled. 



THE RED BAND. 537 



• " He!" muttered the hunchback, " he!" 

"The dead seize the living!" said the man in hollow 
tones. 

On hearing these startling words, Taupier staggered like 
a drunken man and passed his hand across his forehead as 
if to recall his scattered senses. 

" I call myself Justice," said the stranger, " and I come 
to tell you that you yourself must die on the same spot 
where you have twice played the assassin." 

Then, and not until then, did Taupier recognize his first 
victim, Louis de Saint Senier, who appeared before him 
like a grim specter just risen from the grave. 

Kenee's brother, pale and threatening, held a pistol in 
each hand, and seemed resolved to offer his assassin an op- 
portunity to resume the combat in which he himself had 
been unfairly worsted several months before. 

Frenzied with rage and terror, Taupier seized one of 
these weapons and endeavored to wrest it from his op- 
ponent's grasp, but in this frantic attempt his fingers 
touched the trigger. 

The bullet pierced his heart, and the infamous wretch 
fell upon Valnoir's body. 

Regina was avenged! 

The strange events that brought about this tragical de- 
nouement are such as occur only during great social crises. 

The war and the insurrection that had laid waste the fair 
land of France could alone develop characters similar to 
those which have figured in this story. 

Had it not been for the siege of Paris and the misfortunes 
which had resulted from it for several members of his fam- 
ily, Louis de Saint Senier, who had miraculously recovered 
from his wound, would not have been obliged to conceal 
himself so long in the cottage on the Eue de Laval. 

He had spent long months there while he was hanging 
between life and death, and he left the sick-room for the 



538 THE RED BAiVl). 

first time on the night that Frapillon received his chastise- 
ment from Boger's hand. 

Immediately after this catastrophe the invalid departed 
secretly for the Chateau de Saint Senier with those who 
bore his name. 

He had not been strong enough to accompany his sister 
to Saint Germain; but as soon as he found himself able to 
make the journey he started to rejoin her. 

While passing through the forest he was seized with a 
sudden desire to once more behold the place where he had 
so narrowly escaped death; and God — who punishes all 
murderers sooner or later — God had done the rest. 

Eenee's marriage was solemnized in the chapel at Saint 
Senier early in the autumn, and the newly married couple 
left for Italy the next day. 

Podensac has abandoned military and commercial pur- 
suits to take charge of the Saint Senier estate, which he 
manages admirably. 

Louis de Saint Senier resumed his position in the navy, 
and is now about to start on a trip around the world. 

Eose de Charmiere has taken up her abode in Berlin, this 
change of residence being due to her infatuation for an 
officer of cuirassiers whose acquaintance she made at Saint 
Denis during the Commune. 

Pilevert has accepted the position of gamekeeper at 
Saint Senier, Landreau having retired from active service. 

Molinchard is in London, keeping a restaurant, which is 
largely patronized by members of the famous " Society of 
the Moon with the Teeth/' and this being the case, it is 
scarcely probable that he finds the business very lucrative. 



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